The Church Against No-Church
by Orestes A. Brownson
The Christian Examiner and Religious Miscellany
The Journal, the title of which we have here quoted, is the ably conducted organ of the American Unitarians. As a periodical, it is one in which we take no slight interest; for it is conducted by our personal friends, and through its pages, which were liberally opened to us, we were at one time accustomed to give circulation to our own crude speculations and pestilential heresies. We introduce it to our readers, however, not for the purpose of expressing any general opinion of its character, or the peculiar tenets of the denomination of which it is the organ; but solely for the purpose of using the article which appeared in the January number, headed The Church, as a text for some remarks in defence of the Church against No-Churchism, or the doctrine which admits the Church in name, but denies it in fact, so prevalent in our age and community.
All Protestant sects, just in proportion as they depart from Catholic unity, tend to No-Churchism; and the, Unitarians, who are the Protestant of Protestants, and who afford us a practical exemplification of what Protestantism is and must be, when and where, it has the sense, the honesty, or the courage to be consequent, have already reached this important point. They cannot be said, in the proper sense of the word, to believe in any church at all. They see clearly enough, that, if they once admit a church at all, in any sense in which it is distinguishable from no-church, they can neither justify the Reformers in seceding, from the Catholic Church, nor themselves in remaining aliens from its communion. They have, therefore, the honesty and boldness to deny the Church altogether, and to admit in its place only a voluntary association of individuals for pious and religious purposes; in which sense it is on a par with a Bible, Missionary, Temperance, or Abolition society, with scarcely anything more holy in its objects, or more binding on its members.
The Christian Examiner, in the article we have referred to fully authorizes this statement; and though it by no means discards the sacred name of Church, it leaves us nothing venerable or worth contending for to be signified by it. The controversies, for the next few year, it thinks, will, not improbably, revolve around the question of the Church. " What, then," it asks, "is the Church? what is its authority ? what its importance? what its true place among Christian ideas or influences?" These are the questions; and its purpose in the article under consideration is to offer a few remarks which may indicate a true answer to them, especially the last.
In answer to the question, What is the Church? the writer replies, "It is the whole company of believers, the uncounted and widespread congregation of all those who receive the Gospel as the law of life. It is coextensive with Christianity; it is the living Christianity of the time, be that more or less, be it expressed in one mode of worship or another, in one or another variety of internal discipline. The Church of Christ comprehends and is composed of all his followers." -- pp. 78, 79.
The answer to the question, What is the importance of the Church? is not very clearly set forth. Perhaps this is a point on which the writer has not yet obtained clear and distinct views. It is, probably, one of those points on which "more light is to break forth." The place of the Church among Christian ideas and influences also is not very definitely determined; but it would appear that the sacred writers had two ideas, -- for they were not, like our modern reformers, men of only one idea, -- and these two ideas were, one the Church, the other the individual soul. We do not mean to say that the writer really intends to teach that the Church is an idea, for a "company of believers" can hardly be called an idea, nor can the individual soul; but he probably means to teach that the sacred writers had two ideas, or rather two points of view, from which they contemplated this company of believers, -- the one collective, the other individual.
They loved to collect -- in idea -- the members of Christ, as they styled them, under one idea, and present them in this relation of unity to their readers. Thus viewed, the Church became the emblem of Christian influences and Christian benefits. It expressed all Christ had lived for, or died for. He had loved it, and given himself for it. It was 'the pillar and ground of the truth.' It was the 'body' of which he was the head." -- p. 79.
This unity, however, is purely ideal; that is, imaginary. The only unity really existing consists merely in the similar sentiments, hopes, and aims of the individual members. But "There was another idea on which the Apostles insisted still more strenuously, that of the individual soul. They taught the importance of the individual soul. Around this, as the one object of interest, were gathered the revelations and commandments of the Gospel. Personal responsibleness -- in view of privileges, duties, sins, temptations -- was their great theme. They preached the Gospel to the soul in its individual exposure and want. It is, the peculiarity of our religion, its vital peculiarity, that it makes the individual the object of its address, its immediate and its final action. Christianity divested of this distinction becomes powerless, and void of meaning. It contradicts and subverts itself. -Ib.
Here, then, are two ideas, -- the idea of the company, and the idea of the individual; and the first idea is to be held subordinate to the second ; which, we suppose, means that the end of Christianity is the redemption and sanctification of the individual soul, and that the Church is to be valued only in so far as it is a means to this end, -- a doctrine which we do not recollect to have ever heard questioned. The place of the Church is, therefore, below the individual, and being only the effect of the operation of Christianity in the hearts of individuals, as the writer tells us farther on, its importance must consist solely in the reaction of the example of Christians on those not yet converted, and in the aid and encouragement union among professed Christians gives to one another in their strivings after the Christian life. This, as near as we can come at it, is The Christian Examiner's doctrine.
The writer throws in one or two remarks, in connexion with his general statement, to which we cannot assent. "It has been maintained," he says, "that the Church is the principal idea in the Gospel. It has been generally supposed that the individual exists for the Church. Ecclesiastical writers have contended, and the people have admitted, that the rights of the Church were stronger than the rights of the members, that the prosperity of the Church must be secured at the expense of the believer's peace and independence; that, in a word everything must be made to yield to the Church." -- p. 80. The writer must have drawn on his imagination for his facts. Ecclesiastical writers have never contended, nor have the people admitted, any such thing. The doctors of the Church have always and uniformly taught that the Church exists for the individual, not the individual for the Church, and that she is to he submitted to solely as the means in the hands of God of redeeming and sanctifying the individual soul. This is wherefore Catholics so earnestly contend for the Church, so willingly obey her commands, and so cheerfully lay down their lives in her defence.
The question of a conflict of rights between the Church and the individual, which The Christian Examiner regards as the great Question of the age, is no question at all; for there never is and never can be a conflict of rights. It has never been held by any one of any authority in the ecclesiastical world, that the rights of the Church are stronger than the rights of the members, and that the rights of the members must yield to those of the Church. Rights never yield ; claims may yield, but not rights. Establish the fact that this or that is the right of the member, and the Church both respects and guaranties it; but where she has the right to teach and command, she does not come in conflict with individual rights by demanding submission, for there the individual has no rights. To hold him, within the province of the Church, to obedience, is only holding him to obedience to the rightful authority. When the law says to the individual, "Thou shalt not steal," it infringes no right; -- because the individual has not, and never had, any right to steal.
But passing over this, we may say, The Christian Examiner holds, that, in the usual sense of the term, our blessed Saviour founded no church; he merely taught the truth, and, by his teaching, life, sufferings, death, and resurrection, deposited in the minds and hearts of men certain great seminal principles of truth and goodness, to be by their own free thought and affections developed and matured. The Church, is nothing but the mere effect of the development and growth of these principles. "It is but a consequence" of the effect of Christianity upon those who are "separately brought under its influence." These, taken collectively, are the Church. 'These organize themselves in one way or another, adopt for their social regulation and mutual progress such forms of worship or internal discipline as are suggested by the measure of Christian truth and virtue realized in their hearts. This is all the church there is. If you ask, What is its authority? the answer is, "A fiction, a fiction which has cheated millions and ruined multitudes, but a fiction still." -- p. 83. This, in brief, is the church theory of Liberal Christians, in fact, the theory virtually adopted by the great body of the Protestant world, and the only theory a consistent Protestant can, adopt, if not even more than he can consistently adopt.
The insufficiency of this theory it is our purpose in the following essay to point out, by showing that with it alone it is impossible to elicit an act of faith. We shall begin what we have to offer by defining what it is we mean by the Church, and what are the precise questions at issue between us and No-Churchmen. We do this, because The Christian Examiner and its associates do not seem to have any clear or definite notions of what it is we contend for, when we contend for the authority, infallibility, and indefectibility of the Church, or what it is of which we really predicate these important attributes.
The word it is well known, is used in a variety of senses. The Greek ........, ecclesia, rendered bv the word church, taken in a general way, means an assembly or congregation, whether good or bad, for one purpose or another; but is for the most part taken in the Scriptures and the Fathers in a good sense, for the Church of Christ. The English word church, said to be derived from ...... and ....., the Lord's house would seem to designate primarily the place of worship; but as ....., like our English word house, may mean the family as well as the dwelling or habitation, the word church may not improperly be used to designate the Lord's family, the worshippers as well as the place of worship; in which sense it is a sufficiently accurate translation of the Greek ........, as generally used by ecclesiastical writers.
1. By the Church we understand, then, when taken in its widest sense, without any limitation of space or time, the whole of the Lord's family, the whole congregation of the faithful, united in the true worship of God under Christ the head. In this sense it comprehends the faithful of the Old Testament, -- not only those belonging to the Synagogue, but also those out of it, as Job, Melchisedech, &c., -- the blest, even the angels, in heaven, the suffering in purgatory, and those on the way. As comprehending the blest in heaven, it is called the Church Triumphant; the souls in Purgatory, the Church Suffering; believers on the way, the Church Militant; not that these are three different Churches, but different parts, or rather states, of one and the same Church. But with the Church in this comprehensive sense we have in our present discussion we have little to do. The question obviously turns on the Church Militant.
2. The Church Militant is defined by Catholic writers to be "The society of the faithful, baptized in the Profession of the same faith, united in the participation of the same sacraments, and in the same worship, under one head, Christ in heaven, and his Vicar, the Sovereign Pontiff, on earth." But even this is too comprehensive for our present purpose, -- to indicate at once the precise points in the controversy between us and No-Churchmen.
3. We must distinguish, in the Church Militant, between the Ecclesia credens, the congregation of the faithful, and the Ecclesia docens, or congregation of pastors and teachers.
The Church, as the simple congregation of believers, taken exclusively as believers, is not a visible organization, nor an authoritative or an infallible body. On this point we have no controversy with The Christian Examiner; for we are no Congregationalists, and by no means disposed to maintain that the supreme authority in the Church, under Christ, is vested in the body of the faithful. The authority of the Church in this sense we cheerfully admit is "a fiction" "a mischievous fiction," as the history of Protestantism for these three hundred years of its existence sufficiently establishes.
When we contend for the Church as a visible, authoritative, infallible, and indefectible body or corporation, we take the word church in a restricted sense, to mean simply the body of pastors and teachers, or, in other words, the bishops in communion with their chief. We mean what Protestants would, perhaps better understand by the word ministry than by the word church, -- although this word ministry is far from being exact it designates functions rather than functionaries, and, when used to designate functionaries, includes the several orders of the Christian priesthood, -- not merely the bishops or pastors', who alone, according to the Catholic view, constitute the Ecclesia docens. Nevertheless, to avoid the confusion the word church is apt to generate in Protestant minds, -- we shall sometimes use it, merely premising that we use it to express only the body of pastors and teachers, by whom we understand exclusively the bishops, in communion with their chief, the Pope.
Now, the question between us and No-Churchmen turns precisely on this Ecclesia docens. Has our blessed Saviour established a body of teachers for his Church, that is, for the congregation of the faithful? Has be given them authority to teach and govern? Has he given to this body the promise of infallibility and indefectibility? If so, which of the pretended Christian ministries now extant is this body? These are the questions between us and No-Churchmen, and they cover the whole ground in controversy. There is now no mistaking the points to be discussed.
I. We take it for granted that the writer in the Christian Examiner admits, or intends to admit, the divine origin and authority of the Christian religion, and that the name Jesus is the only name "given under heaven among men whereby we must be saved." We shall take it for granted that he holds the Christian religion to be, not merely preferable to all other religions or pretended religions, but the only true religion and way of salvation. We are bound to do so, for he is a Doctor of Divinity, a professedly Christian pastor of a professedly Christian congregition, and it would be discourteous on our part to reason with him as we would with a Jew, Pagan, Mahometan, or lnfidel. We are bound to assume that be holds, or at least intends to hold, that the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ is the only law of life, without obedience to which no one can be saved; and, since be makes Christianity and the Church coextensive, that out of the pale of the Church as he defines it, there is no salvation. The Church, he says, comprehends and is composed of all the followers of Christ. No one, then, who is not in the Church is a follower of Christ. If the Gospel of Christ be the only law of life, no one not a follower of Christ can be saved. Consequently, no one not a member of the Church of Christ can be saved.
To deny this is to reject Christianity altogether, or to fall into complete indifferency. If men can be saved, or be acceptable to their Maker, in one religion as well as in another, wherein is one preferable to another? If the Christian revelation was not necessary to our salvation, why was it given us, and why are we called upon to believe and obey it? why did God send his only begotten Son to make it, and why was it declared to be of such inestimable value to us? If Jesus Christ taught that salvation is attainable in all religions, or in any religion but his own, why were the Apostles so enraptured with the Gospel, and why did they make such painful sacrifices for its promulgation? If they had not been taught to regard it as the only way of salvation, their conduct is unaccountable; and if it be not the only way of salvation, they and their Master can be regarded only as a company of deluded fanatics, whose labors, sacrifices, and cruel deaths may indeed excite our pity, but cannot command our respect. We shall presume the writer in The Christian Examiner sees all this as well as we, and therefore shall presume that he holds with us, that all mankind are bound to worship God, that there is but one true way of worshipping God, and therefore but one true religion, and that this true religion is the Christian religion. He who does not admit this much can by no allowable stretch of courtesy be called a Christian. This premised, we proceed.
In order to be saved, to enter into life, or to become acceptable to God, one must be a Christian. To be a Christian, one must be a believer. No one is a Christian who is not a follower of Christ. Every follower of Christ, according to the Christian Examiner, is a member of the Church of Christ. But, according to the same authority, the Church is a company of believers. Therefore a Christian must be a believer. He who is a believer is a believer because be believes something. Therefore, in order to be a Christian, it is necessary to believe something.
The Christian Examiner must admit this conclusion; yet some Unitarians have the appearance of denying it. A short time since, we read an article in a Unitarian newspaper, written by a distinguished Unitarian clergymen, in which the writer maintains, that, although faith is indispensable to the Christian character, belief is not; yet he fails to define what that faith is which excludes or does not include belief The late Dr. Channing, in his Discourse on the Church, objects to all forms, creeds, and churches, and declares that the essence of all religion is in supreme love to God and universal justice and charity towards our neigbour. Yet we presume he wishes this fact, to wit, that this is the essence of all religion, should be assented to both by the will and the understanding. But this is not a fact of science, evident in and of itself. It depends on other facts which are matters of belief, and therefore must itself be an object of belief. Not a few Unitarian clergymen of our acquaintance understand by faith trust or confidence (fiducia), and contend, that, when we are commanded to believe in Christ, in God, &c., the meaning, is, that we should trust or confide in him. To believe in the Son is to confide in him as the Son of God. But I cannot confide in him as the Son of God, unless I believe that he is the Son of God; I cannot confide in God, unless I believe that he is, and that he is the protector of them that trust him. Where there is no belief, there is and can be no confidence. Confidence always presupposes faith ; for where there is no belief that the trust reposed will be responded to, there is no trust ; and the fact, that the one trusted will preserve and not betray the trust, is necessarily a matter of faith, of belief, not of knowledge. Faith begets confidence, but is not it; confidence is the effect or concomitant of faith, but can never exist without it. So, however these may seem to deny the necessity of belief, they all in reality imply it, presuppose it.
Moreover, all Unitarians hold, that, to be a Christian, one must be a follower of Christ. Their radical conception of Christ is that of a teacher, of a person specially raised up and commissioned by Almighty God to teach, and to teach the truth. But one cannot be said to be the follower of a teacher, unless he believes what the teacher teaches. Therefore, to be a Christian, one must be a believer. This, again, is evident from the Holy Scriptures. "For without faith," says the blessed Apostle Paul, "it is impossible to please God." Heb. xi. 6. So our blessed Saviour: "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be condemned." St. Mark, xvi. 16. "He that believeth in the Son hath eternal life ; but be that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him." St. John, iii. 36. This is sufficient to establish our first position, namely, that, in order to be a Christian, it is necessary to be a believer, that is, to believe somewhat.
This somewhat, which it is necessary to believe, is not falsehood, but truth. What we are required to believe is that for not believing which we shall be condemned. But God is a God of truth, nay, truth itself, and it is repugnant to reason to assume that he will condemn us for not believing falsehood. The belief demanded is also essential to our salvation; for it is said, "He that believeth not shall be condemned." But it is equally repugnant to reason to maintain that a God of truth, who is truth, can make belief in falsehood essential to salvation. Therefore the belief demanded, as to its objec@ is truth, not falsehood.
The truth we are required to believe is the revelation which Almighty God has made us tbrouo;h his Son, Jesus Christ, or in other words, the truth which Jesus Christ taught or revealed. The belief in question is Christian belief, that wbich makes one a Christian believer, a follower of Jesus, a member of the "uncounted and wide-spread congregation of all those who receive the Gospel as the law of life." But one can be a Christian believer only by believing Christian truth; and Christian truth can be no other truth, if different truths there be, than that taught by Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ, according to the confession of Unitarians themselves, was a teacher of truth, and a teacher of nothing but truth. Then all he taught was truth. Therefore, to be truly a Christian believer, truly a follower of Christ, it is necessary to believe, explicitly or implicitly, all the truth he taught. Hence, the commission to the Apostles was to teach all nations, and to teach them to observe all things whatsoever their Master had commanded them. St. Matt. xxviii. 20.
The truth which Jesus Christ taught or revealed appertains, in part, at least, to the supernatural order. By the supernatural order we understand the order above nature, that is, above the order of creation. All creatures, whether brute matter, vegetables, animals, men, or angels, are in God, and without him could neither be, live, nor move. But God has created them all "after their kinds," and each with a specific nature. What is included in this nature, or promised by it, although having its origin and first motion in God, is what is meant by natural. Supernatural is something above this, and superadded. God transcends nature, and is supernatural; but regarded solely as the author, upholder, and governor of nature, he is natural, and hence the knowledge of him as such is always termed natural theology. But as the author of grace, he is strictly supernatural; because grace, though having the same origin, is above the order of creation, is not included in it, nor promised by it. It is, so to speak, an excess of the Divine Fulness not exhausted in creation, but reserved to be superadded to it according to the Divine will and pleasure. Thus God may be said to be both natural and supernatural. As natural, that is, as the author, sustainer, and governor of nature, be is naturally intelligible, according to what Saint Paul tells us, Rom. i. 20. Invisibilia enim ipsius, a creatura mundi, per ea quae facta sunt intellecta, conspiciuntur ; sempiterna quoque ejus virtus, et divinitas: "For the invisible things of God, even his eternal power and divinity, from the creation of the world, are clearly seen, being I understood by the things that are made" But as supernatural, that is, as the author of grace, he is not naturally intelligible, and can be renown only as supernaturally revealed. The fact that he is the author of grace, or that there is grace, is not a fact of natural reason, or intrinsically evident to natural reason. It, therefore, is not and cannot be a matter of science but must be a matter of faith. Hence, the Apostle says again, Heb. xi. 6, Credere enim, oportet accedentem ad Deum quia est, et in inquirentibus se remunerator sit: " He that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that seek him." That he is as author of nature, we know, but that be is as author of grace, or that he is a rewarder of them that seek him, we believe.
Now, the revelation of Jesus Christ is pre-eminently the revelation of God as the author and dispenser of grace, and therefore pre-eminently the revelation of the supernatural. "The law was given by Moses, but grace and truth by Jesus Christ." St. John, i. 17. Hence, to believe the truth and all the truth which Jesus Christ taught is to believe truth pertaining to the supernatural order.
Unitarians, it is true, eliminate from the Gospel a great part of the mysteries, and reduce it, so to speak, to a more republication of the law of nature; their theology is in the main natural theology; their faith in God is in him as the author of nature, and the immortality they look for is merely a natural immortality; but the sounder part of them, do, nevertheless, to some extent, admit that Jesus Christ revealed truths not naturally intelligible, and which pertain to the supernatural order. Tbey admit that the Gospel is itself, in some sense, a revelation of grace, and therefore a revelation of the supernatural. They also admit the necessity, in order to be Christian believers, of believing in several particular things which pertain to the supernatural order. Among these we may instance remission of sins, the resurrection of the dead, and final beatitude, or the heavenly reward. We are not aware that they question these; and we are sure no one can question them without losing all right to tbe Christian name. But these all pertain to the supernatural order.
Remission of sin, whatever else it may mean, means at least, remission of the penalty which God has annexed to transgression. The penalty is annexed by God either as author and sovereign of nature, or as supernatural. lf by god as supernatural, the penalty must itself be supernatural; and therefore he who believes in its remission must believe in the supernatural, for no man can believe in the remission of apenalty which he does not believe to have been annexed. If God annexes the penalty as author and sovereign of nature, its remission must be supernatural. To assume that the order of nature remits it, is to assume nature to be in contradiction with herself, or to deny the remission by denying the existence of any penaltv to remit. Where the remission begins, there ends the penalty. If the remission be in the order of nature, then the order of nature imposes no penalty beyond tbe point where the remission begins; and then there is no remission, for nothing is remitted. To say that God as author and sovereign of nature remits what in the same character he imposes is to assume that he imposes no penalty that goes farther than the commencement of the remission. Then, in fact, no remission. The penalty, in this case, would be exhausted, not remitted. Remission, then, must be by God as supernatural, not as natural; not as author and sovereign of nature, but as author and dispenser of grace. Remission is necessarily an act of grace, and therefore supernatural. Then, whatever, view be taken of the penalty itself, be who believes in its remission must believe in the supernatural order.
So of the resurrection of the dead. We do not mean to say that by natural reason we cannot demonstrate a future continued existence, but that a fact answering to the term resurrection is naturally neither cognoscible nor demonstrable. Resurrection means rising again, and evidently pertains, not to the soul, which never dies, but to the body, and implies that the same body which died is raised; for if not, it would not be a re-surrection, but a simple surrection, or perhaps new creation. Now, by no natural light we possess can we come to the knowledge of the fact that our bodies shall rise again. Yet we are undeniably taught in the Gospel that such is the fact. Moreover, the Apostle Paul tells us that the body shall not only be raised, but it shall be raised in a supernatural condition. "It is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body." It is to be made like to our blessed Saviour's glorious body. But a glorified body does not pertain to the order of nature; because the natural body it is said, is to be "made like to the body of his glory," which implies that it must be changed from its natural to a supernatural condition, before it is a glorified body. But by what natural powers we possess do we arrive at the fact that there are glorified bodies, much more, that our vile bodies shall be changed into glorified bodies? And by what process of reasoning, not dependent for its data on the revelation, can we, now we are told it shall be so, prove that it will be so?
So, again, as to our final destiny. The truth we are to believe pertains to the supernatural order. St.Peter says, "By whom (Jesus Christ) be hath given us very great and precious promises, that by these you may be made partakers of the divine nature," --efficiamini diviniae consortes naturae. 2 Pet. i. 4. That this is to partake of the divine nature in a supernatural sense, and not in the sense in which we naturally partake of it, in being made to the image and likeness of God, is evident from the fact that the Apostle calls it a gift, and says it is that which is promised. What pertains to nature is not a gift, and what is already possessed cannot be said to be something promised. Therefore the participation of the divine nature in question is not a natural, but a supernatural, participatiou. The blessed Apostle John tells us, "We are now the sons of God, and it hath not yet appeared what we shall be. We know that when he shall appear we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is." 1 John iii. 2. Here it is asserted that we are to be something more than sons of God in the sense we now are; for we know not, even being sons of God, what we shall be. But this we do know, that when he shall appear we shall be like him. But this likeness is supernatural,not that to which we were created; otherwise it would be a likeness possessed, not to be possessed. How by the light of nature learn this fact, that we are to become like God, partakers of the divine nature, in a supernatural sense? Again, the blessed Apostle in the same passage says, " Weshall be like him, because we shall see him as he is." So St. Paul, 1. Cor. xiii. 12: " Now we see through a glass, darkly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I shall know even as I am known." The fact here asserted, to wit, that our future destiny is the beatific vision, that is, to see God as he is, and to know him even as we ourselves are known, is not naturally intelligible, nor demonstrable by natural reason. Moreover, to see God as he is exceeds our nature; for naturally we cannot see God as he is, that is, as he is in himself. The destiny, then, which the Gospel reveals for them that love the Lord is supernatural. For "It is written, The eye hath not seen, ear heard, neither hath it entered into the heart of man, what things God hath prepared for them that love him." I Cor. ii. 9. Therefore, to believe the Gospel, or the truth which Jesus Christ taught, it is necessary to believe not only truth supernaturally communicated, but truth pertaining to the supernatural order. But we have already proved that it is necessary to salvation to believe the truth and all the truth which Jesus taught. Therefore it is necessary to believe truth which pertains to the supernatural order.
The result thus far is, that, in order to be Christians, to be saved, to enter into life, to secure the rewards of heaven, it is necessary to believe the truth which Jesus Christ taught, and that we cannot believe this without believing in that which is supernatural, and supernatural both as to the mode of communication and as to the matter communicated. Tbe truth which Jesus Christ taught is, in general terms, the Gospel, or Christian revelation; and the Christian revelation is a supernatural revelation, and, in part at least a revelation of the supernatural. This revelation and its contents we must believe, or resign our pretensions to the Christian name. To believe this revelation and its contents is not, we admit, all that is requisite to the Christian character -- far from it; for there remain beside, faith, hope and charity, and the greatest is charity. Moreover, faith alone is insufficient to justify us in the sight of God; for faith without works is dead, and therefore inoperative. Nevertheless, faith is indispensable. "For without faith it is impossible to please God, " and "He that believeth not shall be condemned." This much we conceive we have established: and this much, we presume, The Christian Examiner will concede.
II. Faith or belief, as distinguished from knowledge and science, rests on authority extrinsic both to the believer and the matter believed. In it there is always assent to something proposed ab extra. That the sun is now shining, I know by my own senses; it is therefore a fact of knowledge; that the three angles of a triangle are equal to two right angles, which I know not intuitively, but discursively, is a fact of science, The first I know immediately; the second I can demonstrate from what it contains in itself. But in belief the case is different. Tbe matter assented to is neither intuitively certain, nor intrinsically evident. I am told there is such a city as Rome, which I have never seen. Having myself never seen Rome, I have no intuitive evidence that there is such a city. The proposition that there is such a city is not intrinsically evident, -- contains nothing in itself from which I can demonstrate its truth. Its truth, then, can be established to me only by evidence extrinsic both to myself and to the proposition that is, by TESTIMONY. That there is a God is a fact of knowledge; for if it be said that we do not know it intuitively, we know it at least discursively, since from the creation of the world, even the invisible things of God are clearly seen, being understood by, the things that are made, as says St. Paul, Rom. i. 20. But that God has destined them that love him to the beatific vision is not a fact of knowledge, or of science; for it is neither intuitively certain, nor externally demonstrable. It may be true; but whether so or not can be determined only by testimony, that is, evidence extrinsic both to the proposition and to myself. Hence St Paul savs, Heb xi. 1, "Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things that appear not;" and St. Augustine, "Faith is to believe what you see not." -- Tract 40 in Joan.
There may be matters contained in the Christian revelation which are matters of knowledge or of science, but we are concerned with it now only so far as it is a matter of faith. As a matter of faith, its truth rests solely on extrinsic evidence, or testimony. We cannot, then, as reasonable beings, believe it, unless we have some extrinsic authority competent to vouch for its trutb, or some witness whose testimony is credible. But as an object of faith, the Christian revelation, in part at least, is a revelation of the supernatural. Now, this which is supernatural cannot be adequately witnessed to or vouched for by any natural witness or authority. No witness is competent to testify to that which he does not or cannot himself know, either intuitively or discursively. But no natural being, how high soever in the scale of being he may be exalted, can know either intuitively or discursively the truth of that which, as to its matter, is supernatural. The only adequate authority for the supernatural is the supernatnral itself, that is, God. For though angels or divinely inspired men may declare the supernatural to us, yet they themselves are not witnesses to its intrinsic truth, and have no ground for believing its truth but the veracity of God revealing it to them. They may be competent witnesses to the fact of the revelation, but not to the truth of the matter revealed. The authority or ground for believing the supernatural matter revealed is, then, the veracity of God, and we cannot reasonably or prudently believe any proposition involving the supernatural on other authority. We have no sufficient ground for faith in such matters, unless we have the clear, express, testimony of God himself. But the testimony of God is sufficient for any proposition, in case we have it; because enough is clearly seen of God, from the creation of the world, being understood the things that are made, to establish on a scientific basis the fact that he can neither deceive or be deceived; for we can demonstrate scientifically, from principles furnished by the light of natural reason, that God is infinitely wise and good, and no being infinitely wise and good can deceive or be deceived. God is the first truth -- primaa veritas -- in being, in knowing, and in speaking, and therefore whatever he declares to be true must necessarily and infallibly be true. Nothing, then, is more reasonable than to believe God on his word or simple veracity; for it is no more than to believe that infinite and perfect truth, truth itself, cannot lie. 'Whatever God has revealed must be true. Even The Christian Examiner would admit the doctrine of the Trinity, if it were proved to be a doctrine of Divine revelation. The witness, ground, or authority for believing the supernatural is the veracity of God, and this all will admit to be sufficient, if we have it; and none will admit, if they understand themselves, that a lower authority is sufficient.
But, although the veracity of God is the ground or authority on which we assent to the matter revealed, yet we cannot believe without sufficient evidence of the fact of revelation, or in other words, without a witness competent to testify to the fact that God has actually revealed the matter in qucstion, made the particular revelation to which assent is demanded. The Christian Examiner is Unitarian, but it will tell us that it ought to believe the doctrine of the Trinity if God has revealed it. Yet it demands, very properly, evidence of the fact that God has revealed it or declared its truth. Reasonable or a well grounded belief in the supernatural, then, requires two witnesses, two vouchers; one to the truth of the matter revealed, which is the veracity of God revealing it; the other to the fact of the revelation, or that the matter in question has actually, been divinely revealed.
The revelation is made to intelligent beings, and must therefore consist in intelligible propositions. We do not mean that the truths revealed should be comprehensible; for every supernatural truth, as to its matter, must be wholly incompre- hensible to natural reason; but that the propositions to be believed must be intelligible. What is present to the mind, in believing the revelation, are these propositions. which convey the truth, but in an obscure manner, to the understanding. If we should mistake the propositions actually contained in God's revelation, or substitute others therefor, since it is only through them that we arrive at the matter revealed, we should not believe the revelation which God has actually made, but something else, and something else for which we cannot plead the veracity of God, and therefore something for which we have no solid ground of faith. Suppose you adduce a book which you say contains the revelation God has made, and suppose you bring ample vouchers for the fact that it really does contain such revelation. In this case I should have sufficient ground for believing the book to contain the word of God; but before I should believe the word of God itself, I must believe the contents of the book in their genuine sense. I must have, then, some authority, extrinsic or intrinsic, competent to declare what is this genuine sense. What I believe is what is present to my mind when I believe. What is present to my mind is the interpretation or meaning I give to God's word. If this interpretation or meaning be not the genuine sense, I do not, as we have said, believe God's word, but something else. Faith in the supernatural requires, then, in addition to the, witness that vouches for the fact that God has made the revelation, an interpreter competent to declare the true meaning of the revelation.
The faith we are required to have is equally required of all men. It is said, qui on credideret, -- that is, any cue, without any limitation, who believeth not shall be condemned. Then there must be no limitation of the essential conditions of faith. Then the witness for the faith, and the interpreter of God's word, must be present in all nations, and subsist through all ages, -- Catholic in space and time. We who live in this country at the present day need them just as much and in the same sense as the Jews did in the age of the Apostles.
The witness to the fact of the revelation, and the interpreter of the word, must not only subsist through all ages and nations, but must be unmistakable; and unmistakable not only by a few philosophers, scholars, and men of parts and leisure, but by the poor, the busy, the weak, the ignorant, the illiterate; for all these are equally commanded to believe, and have a right to have a solid ground of belief, which they cannot have if they may, with ordinary prudence, mistake the true witness and interpreter, and call in a false witness and a misinterpreter.
The witness and interpreter must be infallible; for, if fallible, it may call that God's word which is not his word, and assign a meaning to God's word itself which is not the genuine meaning. We may, then, be deceived, and think we are believing God's word when we are not. But where there is a possibility of deception, there is room for doubt, and where there is room for doubt, there is no faith; for the property of faith is to exclude doubt. The Apostle says, "I know in whom I believe, and am certain," and whoever cannot say as much has not yet elicited an act of faith. Faith is a theologcal virtue, which consists in believing, explicitly or implicitly, all the truths God has revealed, without doubting, on the veracity of God alone. It requires absolute certainty, objective as well as subjective. Where there is belief without sufficient objective, certainly the belief is not faith but mere opinion or persuasion. Mere subjective certainty, that is, an inward persuasion, even though it should exclude all actual doubt, would not be faith unless warranted by evidence in which reason can detect no deficiency. It is a blind prejudice, and would vanish before the light of intelligence. A man may fancy that his head is set on wrong side before, and be so firmly persuaded of it that no reasoning can convince him to the contrary; but his internal persuasion is not faith. For faith is primarily, though not exclusively, an act of the understanding, and must be reasonable, and he who has it must have a solid reason to assign for it. The man has not faith, if he doubts, or may, reasonably doubt; and he amy reasonably doubt if the evidence is not sufficient. He who has for his faith only the testimony of a fallible witness, that may both deceive and be deceived, has always a reasonable ground for doubt, and consequently no solid ground for faith. If he reasons at all on the testimony, if he opens his eyes at all to his liability to be deceived, he cannot, however earnestly he may try to believe, avoid doubting. Therefore, since, with a fallible witness, or fallible interpreter, we can never be sure that we are not mistaken, it necessarily follows, if we are to have faith at all, that we must have a witness and interpreter that cannot err, that is, infallible.
We sum up again by saying, that it is necessary to believe the truth Jesus Christ revealed, or, in other words, the Christian revelation; that to believe this is to believe truths which pertain to the supernatural order; and that, to have a solid ground for believing truths pertaining to the supernatural order, we must have, 1. The word or veracity of God; 2. A witness to the fact of revelation, and an interpreter of the genuine sense of what God has revealed, infallible and subsisting through all ages and nations, and, with ordinary prudence, unmistakable by even the simple and unlearned. The first The Christian Examiner will not deny us. We proceed to prove the second.
III. There must be such a witness and interpreter, or, in other wods, some infallible means of determining what is the word of God, because God has made belief of his word the essential condition of salvation. We know from natural theology, that is, from what is evident to us of God by natural reason, that he is, that be is just, and that he would not be just, should he make faitb the essential condition of salvation, and not provide the necessary conditions of faith. He has made faith the condition of salvation, as we have proved, and as The Christian Examiner must admit, unless it chooses to deny the Christian revelation altogether. But the infallible witness and interpreter alleged is a necessary condition of faith, as we have shown from the nature of faith itself. Therefore, God, since he is just and cannot belie himself, has provided us with the witness and interpreter required, or, what is the same thing, some infallible means of determining what is the word he commands us to believe.
There is, then, the witness and interpreter of God's word in question. Who or what is it? To this question four answers may be returned: -- 1. Reason; 2. The Bible; 3. Private Illumination; 4. The Apostolic Ministry, or the Church teaching.
1. Reason may be taken in two senses: -- 1. The intellective faculty, as distinguished from the sensitive faculty; 2. The discursive or reasoning faculty. In the first sense, it is the faculty of knowing intuitively, and is the principle of knowledge, in distinction from what is technically termed science. In this sense,, reason, in order to answer our purpose, to serve as the witness and interpreter proved to be necessary, must be able either to know God intuitively, or to apprehend intuitively the intrinsic truth of his word. Reason must see God face to face, know intuitively that it is God who speaks; or it cannot testify, on its own knowledge, to the fact that the speaker alleged is God. But reason cannot see God thus face to face. We have and can have no intuitive knowledge of God in this sense. Reason cannot be the witness on the ground of its intuitive apprehension of God, nor can it be on the ground of its intuitive perception or apprehension of the intrinsic truth of the matter revealed. Our natural reason or power of knowing cannot extend beyond the bounds of nature. But the matter revealed, or the truths to be believed, are supernatural, and therefore transcend the reach of the natural intellect. If the natural intellect could attain to them, they would be, not supernatural, but natural. Moreover, if the intrinsic truth of the revelation could be apprehended, intuitively known, it would be, not a matter of faith, but of knowledge; for faith is, to believe what is not seen, argumentum non apperentium. Heb. xi. 1. But it is a matter of faith, as already proved, and therefore not of knowledge. Therefore reason cannot apprehend the intrinsic truth of the revelation, and from the intrinsic truth know it to have been divinely revealed. Therefore reason as the simple intellective faculty, or power of intuition, cannot be the witness.
Reason, in the second sense, is discursive, the subjective principle of science, in distinction from intuitive knowledge, the faculty of deducing conclusions from given premises. If the premises are true, the conclusions are valid. But reason cannot furnish its own premises. They must be given it; hence, they are called data. These data must be furnished either by intuition, or by faith. But in the case before us they can be furnished by neither; -- not by intuition, as we have just proved; and not by faith, because faith is the matter to be determined.
Proof by reason, in the sense we now use the term, is called demonstration. The position assumed, when it is alleged that the discursive reason is the witness of the fact of revelation, is, that reason can find in the internal character of the revelation itself, or what purports to be a revelation, the data from which it, can demonstrate that it is actually the word of God. But this is possible only on condition that reason, independently of all revelation, be in possession of so perfect a knowledge of God as to be able to say a priori what a revelation from God will and necessarily must be. But this is inadmissible; 1. Because it would imply that the revelation is intrinsically evident to natural reason, and therefore that it is an object of science and not of faith; and 2. Because the revelation is of God as supernatural, and reason can know God as supernatural, only through the medium of supernatural revelation itself. The knowledge which reason has of God prior to the revelation is simply what is contained in natural theology, that is, knowledge of God simply as author, sustainer, and sovereign of nature. From this it is, indeed, possible to obtain data from which we may conclude, within certain limits, what a supernatural revelation can not be, but not what it must be. God, whether as author of nature, or as author and dispenser of grace, that is, as natural or as supernatural, intelligible or superintelligible, is one and the same being and therefore cannot in the one be in contradiction to what be is in the other. If, in what purports to be a revelation from him, we find that which contradicts what is clearly seen of him, from the creation of the world, through the things that are made, we have the right to pronounce it, a priori not his revelation. But beyond this reason cannot go; for it is not lawful to reason from nature to grace, from the natural to the supernatural, from data furnished by natural science to supernatural revelation. Reason, then, has no data from which it can conclude what is the revelation. Therefore it cannot be the witness demanded.
Moreover, if reason knew enough of God, independently of the supernatural revelation, to be able, from the intrinsic character of the revelation, to pronounce on its genuineness, not only negatively, but affirmatively, it would know all of God the revelation itself can teach. The revelation would then be superfluous, -- in fact, no revelation at all; and the question of its genuineness would be an idle question, not worth considering. To assume the competency of reason, as the witness, would then be to deny the necessity of the revelation and its value, which, in fact, is what all our Rationalists do, and probably wish to do.
But, in denying the competency of reaon as the witness to the fact of the revelation, we do not deny the office of reason in determining whether a revelation has been made, nor that the fact of revelation is, can, and should be, made evident to natural reason. We merely deny that it is intrinsically evident. It is notintrinsically evident, but extririsically evideint, not internally demonstrable, but externally provable. It can be proved not by reason, but to reason by testimony; and of the credibility of the testimony, reason may, and should judge.
Three things must always be kept distinct in the question of supernatural revelation: -- 1. The ground of faith in the truths revealed; 2. The authority on which we take the fact of revelation; 3. The credibility of this authority. The first, as we have seen, is the veracity of God, and is sufficient, because God is the ultimate truth in being, in knowing, and in speaking, and therefore can neither deceive nor be deceived. The second we are seeking, and it is not a witness to the truth of the matter revealed, but to the fact that God reveals it, and can be competent only on condition of being itself supernatural or supernaturally enlightened. The third is the credibility of the witness to the fact of revelation, and must be evidenced to natural reason; or there will be an impassable gulf between reason and faith, and we can have no reason for our faith, and therefore no faith.
The fact of revelation, we shall show in its proper place, may be evidenced to natural reason through the credibility of the witness, and therefore, that faith is possible. But because reason is competent to judge of the credibility of the witness, we must not conclude that it is itself a competent witness to the fact of revelation. This, conceded, the first answer is inadmissible, for the fact of revelation is neither intuitive nor demonstrable.
2. The answer just dismissed is that of the Rationalists, and is, in one of its forms, substantially the one which we ourselves gave in all we preached and wrote on the subject while associated with the unitarians. The second answer is the Protestant answer, and the one, if we understand him, adopted by the writer in the Christian Examiner. This assumes that the Bible is the witness; that is, the Bible interpreted by the private reason of the believer, availing himself of such aids, philological, critical, historical, &c., as may be within his reach. But this answer cannot be accepted, because, without an infallible authority independent of the Bible, it is impossible, 1. to settle the canon; 2, to establish the sufficiency of the Scriptures; 3. To determine their genuine sense.
The Bible can be adduced as the witness only in the character of an authentic record of the revelation actually made; for, according to its own confession, as we may find on examiniiig it, it was not the original medium of the revelation itself. The revelation, according to the Bible itself, in great part at least, was in the first instance made orally, and orally published before it was committed to writing. This is especially true of the Christian revelation, in so far as distinguished from the jewish. It was communicated orally to the Apostles, by our Lord, and by them orally to the public; and converts were made, and congregations of believers gathered, before one word of it was written. The writing wassubsequent to the teaching and believing, and evidently, therefore, the primitive believers either believed without having any authority for believing, or had an authority for believing independent of written documents. To them what we term the Bible was not the witness. It, then, was not the original witness, or, as we have said, the original medium of the revelation. Its value, then, must consist entirely in the fact, that it faithfully records, in an authentic form, what was actually revealed. It is, then, only as a record that it can be adduced as evidence. But a record is no evidence till authenticated. It cannot authenticate itself; for, till authenticated, its testimony is inadmissible. It must be, authenticated by some competent authority independent of itself. This authentication of the Bible as a record of the revelation made is what we call settling the canon.
Now, it is obvious, that, till the canon is settled, we have no authentic record, no Bible, to adduce. We may have a number of books bound up together, to which the printer has given the title of The Bible; but what we want is not the book called the Bible, but authentic records to which we may appeal as evidence; and if the book we call the Bible contains books which are not authentic records, or does not contain all that are, we cannot appeal to it as evidence; for we may, in the one case, take for revelation what is not revelation, and, in the other, leave out what is revelation. This is evident of itself. We must, then, settle the canon. But where is the authority to settle it?
The authority must be, 1. Independent of the Bible; 2. Infallible. But the advocates of the answer we are considering admit no infallible authority but that of the Bible itself. Therefore they have no authority by which to settle the canon, or to determine what is Bible or what is not Bible.
It will not do to say, the canon is all those books which have been received by the Church as canonical; because the advo- cates of this answer deny the authority of the Church, and stoutly contend that she may both deceive and be deceived. It will not do to appeal to tradition; for what vouches for the inerrancy of tradition? And what right have Protestants to appeal to tradition, whose authority they do not admit, and which they contend may err and does err on many and the most vital points? Nor will it do to adduce the Fathers; for they only establish what in their time was the tradition or belief of the Church, by no means the intrinsic truth of that tradition or belief. Where, then, is the authority for settling the canon?
There is no authority on Protestant principles, as is evident from the fact that Protestants have no canon. They all exclude from the canon established by tbe Church several books which the church holds to be canonical. As to the remaining books, they dispute whether all are canonical or not. Luther rejects the Catholic Epistle of St. James, which be denominates "an epistle of straw," and also doubts the canonicity of several others. Mr. Andrews Norton, a learned and leading Unitarian, formerly a professor in the Divinity School, Cambridge, rejects pretty much the whole of the Old Testament; the Epistle to the Hebrews, the Epistles of James and Jude, the second of Peter, and the Apocalypse, in the New Testament; casts suspicion on the canonicity of all the Pauline Epistles, strikes out the first chapters of Matthew and Luke, and such portions of the remaining books as are demanded by the conveniences of his critical canons, or the exigencies of his dogmatic theology. Not a few of our Unitarians restrict the canon to the four Gospels. Several of the Germans strike from these the Gospel according to St. John; while Strauss, Baur, and Theodore Parker, regard the remaining Gospel narratives rather as a collection of anecdotes illustrating the notions of the early Christian believers, than as authentic histories of events which actually transpired; and the great body of Liberal Christians, who are the Protestants of Protestants, agree that the Bible is so loosely written, is so filled with metaphor and Oriental hyperbole, that no argument, especially no doctrine, can be safely built on single words, or even single sentences, however plain, positive, and uncontradicted, or unmodified by other portions of Scripture, their meaning may seem to be. It is evident from this statement of facts, that Protestants have no canon; that each private man is at liberty to settle the canon according to his own judgment or caprice; and therefore that they have no authentic record to adduce as evidence of the fact of revelation. They must agree among themselves what is Bible, what is inspired Scripture, and authenticate the record, before they can legitimately introduce it as an infallible witness.
But pass over the difficulty of settling the canon; suppose the canon to be settled according to the decision of the Church, and that, by an inconsistency which in the present case cannot be avoided, the authority of the Church to settle the canon is conceded; still there remains the question of the Sufficiency of the Scriptures. The record, however authentic it may be, can be evidence only for what is contained in it. If it does not contain the whole revelation, it is not evidence for the whole. If not evidence for the whole, it is not sufficient; for it is the whole revelation, not merely a part, to which the witness is needed to testify, since it is repugnant to the character of God to suppose that he should reveal any truth but for the purpose of having it believed.
That the Scriptures do contain the whole revelation is not to be presumed prior to proof; because they themselves testify that they are not, at least only in part, the original medium of the revelation. If the revelation had been, in the first instance, made by writing, and by writing, only, then, if we bad the entire written word, we should have the right to conclude that we had the whole revealed word. But since a part of the revelation, to say the least, was communicated orally, taught and believed before the writing was commenced, we cannot conclude from the possession of the entire written word the possession of the entire revealed word, unless we have full evidence that the whole revealed word has been written. The fact of the sufficiency of the Scriptures is not, then, to be presumed from the fact of their canonicity. It is a fact to be proved, not taken for granted.
But this fact cannot be proved by tradition, by the authority of the Church, or by the testimony of the Fathers; for these all, on Protestant principles, are fallible, and not to be depended upon; and, moreover, they all testify against the fact in question. It cannot be proved by reason; because reason takes cognizance not of the fact of revelation, but simply of the motives of credibility. It must be proved by an authority above reason, and, as already established, by an authority which cannot err. But the Bible is asserted to be the only inerrable authority. Therefore it must be proved from the Bible itself. But the Bible proves no such thing, for it nowhere professes to contain the whole revelation which has been made, but even indicates to the contrary. Therefore the sufficiency of the Scriptures cannot be proved, for the sufficiency of the Scriptures must mean that they are sufficient to teach not only the whole revelation of God, but the fact that they do teach the whole, since without this no one can know whether he has the faith God commands him to have, or not. But in failing to prove their sufficiency, they fail to prove this fact; therefore prove their own insufficiency.
It may be replied, that, though the Scriptures may not contain a full record of all that was revealed, they nevertheless contain all that is necessary to be believed in order to be saved. We reply, 1. That the command of God to us is not to believe the Bible or the written word, but the revelation which he has made; and therefore we are not to presume that we have the faith required, from the fact that we believe the whole written word, unless we have first established the fact that the written word is commensurate with the revealed word. 2. God, we know by natural reason, cannot reveal what he does not require to be believed; for the truth revealed while unbelieved, is as if unrevealed, and its revelation has no sufficient reason. But God cannot act without a sufficient. reason. No sufficient reason for the revelation of truth, but that it should be believed, can be conceived, or possibly exist. God reveals it that it should be believed. Then he requires it to be believed. No one can fail to do what God requires, without sin; because God cannot require what he does not make possible. If we cannot fail to believe what God has revealed, without sin, we cannot be saved without believing it. Therefore, it is necessary to salvation to believe all that God has revealed.
God cannot make a revelation and require us to believe it without making it so evident that we can have no intellectual reason for not believing it. Unbelief then, must be the result of some perversity of the will, some moral repugnance, which withholds us from the consideration of the truth revealed, and blinds us as to the evidences of the fact of its revelation. But this perversity of will, this moral repugnance, is a sin, and as much so in the case of one truth revealed as in the case of another. Therefore it is necessary to believe all that God has revealed, in order to be saved. Therefore the Scriptures do not contain all that it is necessary to believe for salvation, unless they contain all that God has revealed.
3. But waiving these considerations, it is either a fact that the Scriptures do contain all that is necessary to salvation, or it is not. If it be a fact, it is a fact which must be proved, and proved by a competent authority. The only competent authority, on Protestant principles, is the Bible itself. If the Bible asserts that it contains all that is necessary to be believed in order to be saved, then it may be conceded that it does. If it assert no such thing, then it does not. But the Bible nowhere asserts that it contains all that is necessary to be believed in order to be saved. Therefore, the Bible does not contain all that is necessary to be believed; for this fact itself, of the sufficiency of the faith it does contain, is itself essential to that sufficiency.
Finally, even admitting the Scriptures may contain the whole revelation, it is not possible by private reason alone to be infallibly certain of their genuine sense. To believe that the Scriptures contain the whole word of God is not to believe that word itself. It is merely believing them to be authoritative which is indeed something, and, in this age of infidelity rationalism, and transcendentalism, no doubt a great deal; but is not the faith required. The command is not to believe that the Bible is an authentic record of the revelation, but to believe the truths revealed,-- not the Bib!e, but what the Bible, rightly interpreted, teaches. The truths revealed are the object, the material object, of faith; and these evidently are not believed, unless the Bible be believed in its genuine sense, even assuming the Bible to contain them all.
We insist on this point, because it is one on which there are frequent and dangerous mistakes. The matter of faith is these revealed truths, which are fixed and unalterable, universal and permanent, and which must be carefully distinguished from our notions or apprehensions of them, which are dependent on our mental states or conditions, and change and fluctuate as we ourselves change or fluctuate. These notions are not the matter of faith, and to hold fast these is quite another thing from holding fast the truths themselves. If these notions, which are our interpretations or constructions of the truth, were the faith required, the faith would be one thing with one man, another thing with another, and one thing with the same man yesterday, another today, and perhaps still another to-morrow. The true faith is an undoubting belief of the TRUTH, not what a man thinks to be the truth, but what really is truth; otherwise men could be saved so far as belief is necessary to salvation, under one form of belief as well as another, for there is probably no form of error which its adherents do not think is truth. Sincerity in the belief of error cannot be the substitute for Christian faith; for we have found that, the faith which is the condition sine qua non of salvation is belief of truth and not falsehood, and of that very truth which Jesus Christ revealed. But this truth we do not believe, unless it lie in our interpretation as it lies in the mind of Jesus Christ himself. If it do not so lie, then we misinterpret it, and the misinterpretation of truth is not truth, and to believe this misinterpretation is to believe not the truth, but something else. If, then, we do not believe the revelation made in the Scriptures, in its genuine sense, in the sense intended by Almighty God, we do not believe the revelation at all.
Now, it is necessary not, only that we seize, without any mistake, this genuine sense, but that we be infallibly certain that we have seized it. Even admitting that with nothing but private reason we could hit upon the genuine sense of Scripture, it would avail us nothing, unless we had this infallible certainty; because without this infallible certainty we cannot have faith. Will any man pretend that it is possible by private reason alone to be infallibly certain that we have the genuine sense of the Scriptures? We may, perhaps, fell certain; but this feeling certain is not faith. Faith is a firm, unwavering and unwaverable conviction of the understanding, as well as a cheerful assent of the will. The mere feeling is worth nothing. Every enthusiast, every fanatic, has the feeling; but he who has nothing else is a mere reed shaken with the wind, or a wild beast let loose in society, as unacceptable to God as unprofitable to himself or dangerous to his associates. It is not this Almighty God demands of us, and it is not for the want of this that he places us under condemnation and suffers his wrath to abide upon us. No; we must have certainty, an intellectual certainty, certainty which the mind can grasp, and its hold of which all the craftiness of subtle sophists, all the allurements of the world, all the temptations of the flesh, and all the assaults of hell, cannot induce it for one moment to relax. We must have a faith which can be proof against all trials, come they from what quarter they may; for our life is a warfare, an incessant warfare, and there come to all of us moments when nothing but a firm, fixed, and unalterable faith can sustain us, -- moments when feeling, when the dearest affections of the heart, when all that can powerfully affect us as creatures of time and sense, conspire against us, and we must stand up against them and even against ourselves. 0, in these terrible moments, in the sacred name of Christian charity, mock us not with a faith that melts away into mere feeling, and vanisbes in mere fancy!
Now, it needs no words to prove that a faith which is not grounded on the word of God, who can neither deceive nor be deceived, will not answer our wants, will not be proof against the many "fiery trials" to which it must needs in this world be subjected. But we have no such faith merely because we have the Bible in our possession, nor because the Bible contains the word of God, nor because we read and study it and believe that we believe it. We have such a faith only on condition of knowing infallibly that what we take to be the meaning of the Bible is God's meaning; for the faith is belief of the truth as it is in Jesus, not as it is in us. We ask again, Can private reason give us this certainty?
This is a serious question, and one which the Protestant must answer, before be can have any solid reason for his faith. It will not do to call upon us to prove the negative; even if we could not prove that it is impossible from the Bible and private reason to become infallibly certain of the genuine sense of the word of God, it would not follow that we can from them obtain the infallible certainty without which there is no faith, and, if no faith, no salvation. He who affirms the proposition must prove it, not for the sake of meeting the logical conditions of his opponent's argument, for that is an affair of small moment; but for himself, for his own mind, to have in himself and for himself a well-grounded faith. Now, how will be prove this proposition, that from the Bible and private reason alone he can ascertain the genuine sense of the word of God, and know infallibly that he has that sense?
Will be prove this proposition from the Bible? He is bound by, his own principles to do so; for this is his rule of faith, and his rule of faith should rest on Divine authority. But be admits no divine authority except the Bible. Then he must prove it from the Bible, or admit that he has no sufficient authority for it. Can he prove it from the Bible? Not in express terms, for the Bible in express terms does not assert it, as is well known. It can be proved from the Bible only by means of certain passages which are assumed to imply it. But whether these do imply it or not depends on the interpretation we give them. It can be proved from Scripture, then, only by a resort to interpretation. But the interpretation demands the application, the use of the rule, as the condition of establishing it. But how determine that the interpretation which authorizes the rule is not itself a misinterpretation, especially since it is an interpretation which is disputed? Can the rule be proved from reason? Not from reason, as the faculty of intuition; because the fact, that from the Bible and private reason alone we can infallibly determine what it is that God has actually revealed, is evidently not intuitively certain. From reason, as the principle of reasoning? From what data shall we conclude it? It may be said, that God is just, that he has made a revelation, commanded us to believe it, and made our belief of it the condition sine qua non of salvation; but he would not be just in so doing, if this revelation were not infallibly ascertainable in its genuine sense by the prudent exercise of natural reason. Ascertainable by natural reason in some way, we grant; but by private reason and the Bible alone, we deny; for God may have made the revelation ascertainable only by a divinely commissioned and supernaturally guided and protected body of teachers, and the office of natural reason to be to judge of the credibility of this body of teachers. From the fact that the revelation is addressed to reasonable beings, and is to be believed by such, and therefore must be made intelligible, it does not necessarily follow that it must be intelligible from the Scriptures and private reason alone. For this would imply that the Scriptures were intended to be the medium and the only medium through which God makes his revelation to men; the very question in dispute.
Can it be proved as a matter of fact, from experience? We have before us the history of Protestant sects for the last three hundred years. A three hundred years' experience ought to suffice to demonstrate the possibility of their ascertaining the sense of God's word, if it be thus ascertainable. Yet Protestants during this long period have done little but vary their interpretations, dispute, wrangle, divide, subdivide, and subsubdivide, on the question of what it is God has revealed. They are now split up into some five or six hundred sects. There is not a single doctrine in which they all agree; not a single doctrine has been asserted by one that has not been denied by another. The writer in The Christian Examiner is a conscientious and devout Unitarian, and yet how large a portion of his Protestant brethren will not deem it an excess of courtesy to treat him and his associates as Christian believers? The Gospel according to Dr. Channing has very, little affinity with the Gospel according to Dr.Beecher. Now, truth is one, and can admit of but one true interpretation. Of these many hundred Protestant interpretations, only one at most can be the true interpretation; all the rest are false interpretations, and their adherents are no true Christian believers. Can any Protestant say with infallible certainty that his interpretation is the true one? If not, how can he elicit an act of faith, how, if come to the use of reason, can he be a Christian?
The writer in The Christian Examiner makes very light of these different interpretations of the word of God, and thinks difference of interpretation can do no great harm, because, in his judgment, over it all "there may prevail a harmony of sentiment and a harmony of life." But he mistakes the end of unity of faith. Unity of faith is essential because truth is one, and there can be but one true faith, and without this true faith salvation is not possible. "Without faith it is impossible to please God." And this must needs be the true faith, not a false Truth, which is no faith at all. Our Unitarian friend seems to imagine that what we are required to believe is, not the truth, but what we think to be the truth; that is, we are required to believe the truth not as it is in Jesus, but as it is in ourselves! Does he find any, proof of this convenient doctrine in the Scripture? Can he adduce a "Thus saith the Lord" for it? If not according to his own principles, it rests only on human authority, on wnich be, does not allow us to believe; for be makes it the duty of the believer to stand up firm against all human it the duty of the believers to stand up to all human dictation in matters of belief In this he is right, and we must have higher authority than his, before we can consent to regard any nan's constructions of the truth, unless we have infallible authority for believing them the true constructions, as the truth Almighty God commands us to believe, and without believing which, we must lie under his wrath and condemnation.
No argument can be drawn, it is evident, from experience, to prove that from the Bible and private reason alone we can determine with infallible certainty what is the revelation of God. So far as experience throws any light on the subject, it warrants the opposite conclusion, and makes if certain that without something else faith is out of the question. Protestants, in fact, have no faith; nay, so far from having any faith, nearly all of them deny its possibility. They have, as we have seen, no authority from the Bible, from reason, or from experience, for their rule of faith; and they cannot be such poor logicians as to infer that they can leave faith by virtue of a rule which is not authorized. This is no doubt, a serious matter for them; for, ever must ring in their ears sine fide impossibile est placere Deo, -- qui non crediderit condemnabitur. We must, then, either give up the possibility of faith, or seek some other than the Protestant answer to the question, Who or what is the witness to the fact of revelation?
3. The insufficiency of this answer has been felt even by Protestants themselves, and some of them have proposed a third answer, which we may denominate Private Illumination, because it is a kind of revelation made for the special benefit of him who receives it, and not a revelation to be communicated by him for the faith or confirmation of the faith of others. It is contended for, under various forms, but the more common form, the one with which we are principally concerned in this discussion, is the Calvinistic, or what is usually denominated Christian experience. This concedes the defectiveness of the logical evidence of the fact of revelation, and pretends that it is supplied by a certain interior illumination from the Holy Ghost in the fact of regeneration, wherebv the believer is enabled to know by his own experience the truth of the doctrine he believes or is required to believe. The famous Jonathan Edwards was a great advocate for this, and sets it forth with considerable ability in his Treatise on the Affections, and especially in a sermon on The Reality qf the Spiritual Liqht, preached at Northampton in 1734. It is insisted on, we believe, by all the Protestant sects that claim to be Evangelical. Indeed, this, in their estimation, constitutes the chief mark by which Evangelicals are distinguished from Non-evangelicals.
That there is a Christian sense, so to speak, --internal tradition, as it is sometimes called, to distinguish it from the external, --which belongs to Christians, and which makes them altogetber better judges of what is Christian truth than are those who are not Christians, and that the just, those who belong to the soul of the Church, have a clearer perception, a more vivid appreciation, of the truth, beauty, grandeur, and work of Christian faith than have the unregenerate or the unjust, we of course very distinctly and cheerfully admit. We also admit, and contend, that "faith is the gift of God," not merely because, it is belief in truth which God has graciously revealed, as our Unitarian friends apparently maintain, but because no man can believe, even now that the truth is revealed. without the aid of divine grace, that is to say, without grace supernaturally bestowed. Faith is a virtue which has merit; but no virtue possible without the aid of divine grace has merit; --that is, --merit in relation to eternal life. The grace of faith is absolutely essential to the eliciting of the act of faith.
But this considers faith in as much as it is divine faith, a gift of God, and lying wholly in the supernatural order, not as simply human faith, in which it depends on extrinsic evidence or testimony, and the obligation of a man under the simple law of nature to believe, --the only sense in which, in this discussion. we consider it. Unbelief, in those to whom the Gospel has been preached is a sin not merely against the revealed law, but also against the natural law, which it could not be, if the Gospel did not come accompanied with sufficient evidence to warrant belief in every reasonable man. No man is to blame for not believing what is not sufficiently evidenced to his understanding, or for not taking, prior to his knowledge of his obligation to do so, the necessary steps to obtain through grace the faith that translates him from the natural order into the supernatural kingdom of God. Sin is predicable of the will, not of the intellect, and if the evidence were not all that can be justly required to convince the intellect, there could be no sin in simple refusal of the will to believe. The sin lies in the refusal to believe what is sufficiently evidenced; for the refusal can then proceed only from some moral repugnance to the truth, or some propensity of the will, which restrains the man from duly considering the truth and weighing its evidence. Undoubtedly, grace, to illustrate the understanding and to incline the will, is necessary to enable a man to elicit the supernatural act of faith, or to be a true Christian believer; but it is not needed to supply the defect of the evidences objectively considered, because simple natural reason itself is bound to assent to the truth of the Gospel. The Gospel is addressed to man as a reasonable being, and therefore must satisfy the reasonable demands of reason, and it is because it does so satisfy them, that not to believe it is a sin under the natural law. Reason itself commands us to believe it. Hence grace cannot be necessary, simply for the purpose of supplying the defect of evidence, considerd as all evidence must be, as addressed to natural reason.
But the Calvinistic view is not that the private illumination, or the grace of faith is simply necessary to translate one into the kingdom of grace, and enable him to elicit an act of divine or supernatural faith, but to supply the defect of logical evidence, for it is asserted as the witness to the fact of revelation. The grace is bestowed in the fact of regeneration, and therefore implies that prior to regeneration there is no sufficient evidence for believing revelation. The moral obligation to believe cannot begin till the evidence is complete, so the unregenerate are under no obligation to believe, and in them unbelief is, and can be, no sin! This is not the Christian doctrine, for God commands all men to repent and believe in his Son, under pain of present wrath and eternal condemnation.
But according to the Evangelical doctrine regeneration consists precisely in the gift of faith. There is, according to the same doctrine, no amissibility of grace; once in grace, always in grace; consequently, after regeneration unbelief is impossible, and the regenerate can never contract the sin of unbelief. Before regeneration unbelief is not a sin, consequently, there can never be any sin of unbelief --a most convenient doctrine to all misbelievers and infidels. Yet the New Testament clearly teaches, if it clearly teaches anything, that infidelity is a most grievous sin. This Calvinistic view is therefore clearly inadmissible.
In another form, the doctrine of private illumination is made to mean not merely the confirmation of the believer's faith in a revelation previously made and propounded for his belief, but the medium of the revelation itself. It regards all external revelation, all that may be called historical Christianity, as unnecessary, and teaches that each man has, by grace, the infallible witness in himself, that the Spirit of Truth, promised by Christ to his Apostles to lead them into all truth is, and has been, in every man born into the world, from Adam to the present moment, and is in every man an infallible teacher, revealing and confirming to him all the truth which concerns his spiritual state, relations, and destiny. We say, by grace; for we do not here speak of the doctrine of our modern Transcendentalists, which, though often confounded with the view we have given, which is the Quaker view, is yet quite distinguishable from it. The Transcendentalist doctrine excludes all grace, all that is supernatural, and assumes, that man, by virtue of his natural union with the Divinity, is able to apprehend intuitively all spiritual truth. This, with a transcendental felicity of expression, has been denominated "Natural-supernaturalism." But this is only another way of stating the doctrine refuted under the head of the sufficiency of reason as the principle of intuition. Natural-supernaturalism" is a barbarism, and involves a direct contradiction. Either the truths attained lie within the range of our natural powers, or they do not. If not, the Transcendental doctrine is false, for then the knowledge of them would be supernatural. If they do, then they are not supernatural at all. Transcendentalism, in point of fact, admits no supernatural order. Its adherents, following the sublimated nonsense of that profound opium-eater, and literary plagiarist, Coleridge, define supernatural to be supersensuous; and because by science we evidently can attain to what is not sensuous, they sagely infer that we are able to know naturally the supernatural! Just as if what is naturally attained could be supernatural, either as the object known, or as the niedium by which it is known? Just as if nature could not include the supersensible as well as the sensible, as if the soul were not as natural as the body, an angel as a man! But this "natural-supernaturalism" which makes the fortune of Carlyle, Emerson, Parker, and we know not how many German dreamers, is nothing but a Transcendental way of denying all supernatural revelation, and its refutation does not belong to the present discussion. It is intended to account for the phenomena presented by the religious history of mankind, without the admission of the supernatural or gracious intervention of Almighty God, and would deserve attention if we were defending Christianity against unbelievers. We have no concern with it now, for at present we are defending the Church against heretics, not against infidels.
The Quaker view is theoretically, though perhaps not practically, distinct from this Transcendental natural-supernaturalism. It does not assume that the supernatural is naturally intelligible, nor that the supernatural is merely the supersensible. It admits the supernatural order, and contends that the witness in every man is distinct from human reason, and is in the proper sense of the term supernatural. Now this witness, calied "the light within," either enables us to see intuitively the truth, or it merely witnesses to the fact of revelation. If the first, it is too much; for it would imply that the truth is matter of know- ledge and not of faith, contrary to what we have proved, Moreover, it would imply that man is blest with the beatific vision in this life, and sees and knows God intuitively, as he is in himself, which is not true. If the second, then, to the fact of what revelation does it witness? To the revelation which God has made us through his Son Jesus Christ? Does it witness to this by an inward perception of the truth of the matter revealed or by simply deposing to the fact that God revealed it? Not the first, because that would make the truth revealed a matter of science. Then the second. But of this we demand proof. Do you say, that the spirit beareth witness to the fact? How will you prove to me, or even to yourself, that it does so witness, and that the spirit witnessing in you is veritably and infallibly the spirit of God? Do you allege, the spirit is in every man testifying to the same fact, and proving itself to each man to be really and truly the infallible spirit of God? I deny it, and millions deny it with me. What have you to oppose to our denial? Do you admit our denial? Then you abandon your doctrine? Do you say our denial is false? Then, also, you abandon your doctrine; for you admit that we err, and therefore cannot have in us an infallible teacher. lf I deny, I deny by as high authority as you affirm; and what reason, then can you give why your affirmation must be received rather than my denial?
Again: How do you prove that every man has this infallible witness? From the external revelation, by passages from the Holy Scriptures? Then you reason in a vicious circle; for you take the inward witness to prove the Scriptures and then the Scriptures to prove the witness. From immediate revelation to yourself? Then you must prove that you are the recipient of such revelation, which you can do only by a miracle, for a miracle is the only proper proof of such a fact.
But do you abandon the ground that it is the external revelation to which the witness deposes, and contend that it is rather the medium of a revelation made solely to the individual, than the witness to a revelation made and propounded for the belief 43 of all men in common? Then it is nothing to the purpose. Granting its reality, it can avail only each man separately, nothing to a common belief, and be no ground for crediting a common revelation, or for making a public or external profession of faith. But the revelation to which we are seeking a witness is not a new revelation, not a private revelation which Almighty God may see proper to make to individuals, but a revelation already made, and propounded for the belief of all men. This is the revelation to be established; And since your private revelation does not establish this, or, if so only by superseding it and rendering it of no value (for it can prevent even to the individual only by its being seen to be identical with what the individual receives without it), it evidently cannot, be the witness we are in pursuit of. And this is the common answer to the alleged private illumination, whatever its form. It is valid, if valid at all, only within the bosom of the individual, and can be alleged in support of no common or public faith; therefore can be no witness in any disputed case. It may be a private benefit, or may not be. It is a matter not to be spoken of, and a fact never to be used, when the question relates to anything but the individual himself. The faith we are required to have is a faith propounded to all men, a public faith, and must be sustained by public evidence, by arguments which are open to all and common to all. We must, therefore, reject this third answer. as inappropriate and insufficient. 
4. From what we have established it follows that the witness to the fact of revelation is not reason, the Bible interpreted by private reason, nor private illumination. No witness, then, remains to be introduced but the Apostolic ministry, or Ecclesia docens. We do not deny the possibility on the part of God of adopting some other method; but be manifestly has not adopted any other than one of the four methods we have enumerated. The first three of these four we have proved he cannot have adopted, because they are inadequate. Then, either the last method is adopted, and the Apostolic ministry is the witness, or we have no witness. But we have a witness, as before proved. Therefore, the Apostolic ministry, or Ecclesia docens, is the witness.
This conclusion stands firm without any further proof, but we do not intend to leave it without proving it by plain, positive, and direct evidence. But before proceeding to do this, we must dispose of one or two preliminary difficulties. According to the principles we have laid down, the witness to the supernatural is incompetent unless it be itself supernatural, or, what is the same thing, supernaturally aided. But the Apostolic ministry is composed of men, each of whom, taken singly is confessedly only human. The whole is only the sum of the parts. Therefore the ministry itself is only human. If human, natural. If natural, incompetent. Thereore the Apostolic ministry cannot be such a witness as is demanded.
This objection is founded on the supposition that the collective body of teachers are assumed to be the witness by virtue of their natural powers or endowments, which is not the fact. Left to their natural powers, the bodv oi teachers, taken eitber singly or corporately, would be altogether incompetent, however learned, wise, or saintly. The competency of the body teachers is asserted solely on the ground that Jesus Christ is with it, and supernaturally speaks in and through it; and in and through the body rather than the teachers taken singly, because his promise, on which we rely, is made to the body, and not to the individuals taken singly. The ministry is the organ through which our Lord supernaturally bears witness to his own revelation. If this be a fact, if our Lord really, by his supernatural presence, be with the Ministry, if in its autboritative teachings he makes it his organ and speaks in and through it, its competency cannot be questioned; for we then have in it the supernatural witness to the supernatural. Whether this be a fact or not will be soon considered.
But it is still further objected, that, if the witness to the superatural must be itself supernatural, the supernatural can never be witnessed to natural reason, and therefore man can never have any good grounds for believing the supernatural, unless he be himself supernaturally elevated above his nature. For the competency of the supernatural witness is a supernatural fact which can be proved only by another supernatural witness, which in turn will require still another, and thus on, ad infinitum, which is impossible. But we must distinguish between the competency of the witness to testify to the fact, of revelation and the motives of the credibility of the witness. The competency of the witness depends on its supernatural character; the motives of credibility being needed only by natural reason, are such as natural reason may appreciate. The credibility of the witness is supernaturally established to natural reason by means of miracles. A miracle is a supernatural effect produced in or on natural objects, and therefore connects the natural and supernatural, so that natural reason can, in some sense, pass from the one to the other. Since the miracle is wrought on natural objects, it is cognizable by natural reason, and natural reason is able to determine whether a given fact be or be not a miracle. From the miracle the reason concludes legitimately the supernatural cause, and the Divine commission or authority of him by whom it is wrought. Having established the divine commission or authority of the miracle-worker, we have established his credibility, by having established the fact that God himself vouches for the truth of his testimony. The miracle, therefore, supersedes the necessity of the supposed infinite series of supernatural witnesses, by supernaturally connecting the natural with the supernatural. It is God's own assurance to natural reason, that he speaks in and by or through the person by whom it is performed. Then we have the veracity of God for the truth of what the miracle-worker declares, and therefore infallible certainty; for natural reason knows that God can neither deceive nor be deceived.
The supernatural, it follows, is provable. Consequently the character of the Apostolic ministry, as the supernatural witness 46 to the fact of revelation, is provable, that is, is not intrinsically unprovable. It becomes a simple question of fact, and is to be proved or disproved in like manner as any other question of fact falling under the cognizance of natural reason. The process of proof is simple and easy. The miracles of our blessed Lord were all that was necessary to establish his Divine authority to those who saw them; for it was evident, as Nicodemus said to him, "No man can do these miracles which thou doest, unless God be with him." St. John iii. 2. These accredited him as a teacher from God. Then he was necessarily what he professed to be, and what he declared to be God's word was God's word. This was sufficient for the eyewitness of the miracles.
But we are not eyewitnesses. True; but the fact, whether the miracles were performed or not, is a simple historical question, to which reason is as competent as to any other historical question. If it can be established infallibly to us that the miracles were actually performed, we are virtually and to all intents and purposes in the condition of the eyewitnesses themselves, and they are to us all they were to them. Then they accredit to us, as to them, the Divine commission of Jesus, and authorize the conclusion that whatever he said or promised was infallible truth; for whether you say Jesus was himself truly God as well as truly man, or that he was only divinely commissioned, you have in either case the veracity of God as the ground of faith in what be said or promised.
Now, suppose it be a fact that Jesus appointed a body of teachers, and promised to be always with them, protecting them from error and teaching them all truth; and suppose, farther, that the appointment and promise are ascertainable by natural reason, infallibly ascertainable, we should then have infallible certainty that Jesus Christ does speak in and through this body, that it is infallible in what it teaches, and therefore that what it declares to be the word of God is the word of God; for it is infallibly certain that Jesus Christ will keep his promise, since the promise is made by God himself. either directly, as we hold, or through his accredited agent, as The Christian Examiner holds, and it is impossible for God to lie, or to promise and not fulfil. In this case, calling this body of teachers the Catholic Church, we could make our act of faith without the least room for doubt or hesitation. "O my God! I firmly believe all the sacred truths the Catholic Church believes and teaches, because thou hast revealed them, who canst neither deceive nor be deceived."
Taking the facts in the case to be as here supposed, the only points in the process to which exceptions can possibly be taken, or which can by any one be alleged to be not infallibly certain, are, 1. The competency of natural reason from historical testimony to establish the fact that the miracles were actually perforined; 2. Admitting the facts to be infallibly ascertainable, the competency of reason to determine infallibly whether they are miracles or not; 3. The competency of reason to conclude from the miracle the Divine authority of the miracleworker; 4. Its competency from historical documents to ascertain infallibly the fact of the appointment of the body of teachers, and the promise made them. These four points, unquestionably essential to the validity of the argument, are to be taken, we admit, on the authority of reason. Can reason determine these with infallible certainty? But, if you say it can, you affirm the infallibility of reason, and then it of itself suffices, without other infallible teacher; if you say it cannot, you deny the possibility of establishing infallibly the infallibility of your body of teachers.
Reason is infallible within its own province, but not in regard to what transcends its reach. To deny the infallibility of reason within its province would be to deny the possibility not only of faith, but of both science and knowledge, and to sink into absolute skepticism, --even to " doubt that doubt itself be doubting," --which is impossible; for no man doubts that he doubts. Revelation does not deny reason, but presupposes it. The obiection to revelation is not that it cannot judoe infallibly of some matters, but that it cannot judge infallibly of all matters. But, because it cannot judge infallibly of all matters, to say it can judge infallibly of none is not to reason justly. As well say, I am not infallibly certain that I see the tree before my window, because I cannot see all that may be going on in the moon. It is infallibly certain that the same thing cannot both be and not be at the same time; that two things respectively equal to a third are equal to one another; that the three angles of a triangle are equal to two right angles; that what begins to exist must have a creator; that every effect must have a cause, and that every supernatural effect must have a supernatural cause, and that the change of one natural substance into another natural substance is a supernatural effect; that every voluntary agent acts to some end, and every wise and good agent to a wise and good end. These and the like propositions are all infallibly certain. Reason, within its sphere, is therefore infallible; but out of its sphere it is null.
Human testimony, within its proper limits, backed by circumstances, monuments, institutions which presuppose its truth and are incompatible with its falsehood, is itself infallible. I have never seen London, but I have no occasion to see it in order to be as certain of its existence as I am of my own. History, too, is a science; and although evervthing narrated in it may not be true or even probable, yet there are historical facts as certain as mathematical certainty itself. It is infallibly certain that there were in the ancient world the republics of Athens, Sparta, and Rome; that there was a peculiar people called the Jews, that this people dwelt in Palestine, that they bad a chief city named Jerusalem, in this chief city a superb temple dedicated to the worship of the one God, and that this chief city was taken by the Romans, this temple burnt, and this people, after an immense slaughter, were subdued, and dispersed among the nations, where they remain to this day. Here are historical facts, which can be infallibly proved to be facts.
Now, the miracles, regarded as facts, are simple historical facts, said to have occurred at a particular time and place, and are in their nature as susceptible of historical proof as any other facts whatever. Ordinary historical testimony is as valid in their case as in the case of Caesar's or Napoleon's battles. Reason, observing the ordinary laws of historical criticism, is competent to decide infallibly on the fact whether they are proved to have actually occurred or not. Reason, then, is competent to the first point in the process of proof, namely, the fact of the miracles.
It is equally competent to the second point, namely, whether the fact alleged to be a miracle really be a miracle. A miracle is a supernatural effect produced in or on natural objects. The point for reason to make out, after the fact is proved, is whether the effect actually witnessed be a supernatural effect. That it can do this in every case, even when the effect is truly miraculous, we do not pretend; but that it can do it in some cases, we affirm, and to be able to do it in one suffices. When I see one natural substance chanced into another natural substance, as in the case of converting water into wine, I know the change is a miracle; for nature can no more change herself than she could create herself. So, when I see a man who has been four days dead, and in whose body the process of decomposition has commenced and made considerable progress, restored to life and health, sitting with his friends at table and eating, I know it is a miracle; for to restore life when extinct is no less an act of creative power than to give life. It is giving life to that which before had it not, and is therefore an act which can be performed by no being but God alone. Reason, then, is competent to determine the fact whether the alleged miracle really be a miracle. It is competent, then, to the second point in the process of proof.
No less competent is it to the third, namely, the Divine commission of the miracle-worker. In proving the event to be a miracle, I prove it to be wrought by the power of God. Now, I know enough of God, by the natural light of reason, to know that he cannot be the accomplice of an impostor, that he cannot work a miracle by one whose word may not be taken. The miracle, then, establishes the credibility of the miracle-worker. Then, the miracle-worker is what he says he is. If he says he is God, he is God; if he says he speaks by Divine authority, he speaks by Divine authority, and we have God's authority for what he says. The third point, then, Comes within the province of natural reason, and may be infallibly settled.
The fourth point is a simple historical question; for it concerns what was done and said by our Blessed Lord in regard to the appointment of a body of teachers. It is to be settled historically, by consulting the proper documents and monuments in the case. It is not a question of speculation, of interpretation even, but simply a question of fact, to which reason is fully competent, and can, with proper prudence and documents, settle infallibly.
These remarks accepted, it follows that the infallible certainty we demand is possible, that is, is not a priori impossible. In passing froim the possible to the actual, it is necessary to establish, by historical testimony, the miracles of our Blessed Lord, from which we conclude his Divinity or Divine commission, and that he did appoint a body of teachers, commission the Church teaching, with the promise of infallibility and indefectibility. The first, The Christian Examiner concedes; we proceed, therefore, to the proof of the second.
The question before us, distinctly stated, is, Has Jesus Christ commissioned a body of pastors and teachers, and given this body the promise of infallibility and indefectibility? If not, faith, as we have seen, is impossible, and no man can have a solid reason for the Christion hope he professes to entertain. It is, then, worth inquiring, whether we have not sufficient, proof of the fact that he has commissioned such a body.
In settling this question, we shall use the New Testament, but simply as an historical document. We do this because it abridges our labor, and because the New Testament, so far as we shall have occasion to adduce it, is admitted as good authority by those against whom we are reasoning. It is their own witness, and its testimony must be conclusive against them. Moreover, its general authenticity, as a contemporary historical document, would fully warrant its use, even if not adduced by our adversaries.
It must not be objected to us, that, after what we have said of the necessity of an infallible authority to authenticate the canon, to quote the Bible to establish the commission in question is to reason in a vicious circle. This is the standing Protestant objection. We do not admit it. For, 1. We do not depend on the Bible for the historical facts from which we conclude the commission of the Ecclesia docens, or body of pastors and teachers; for these facts we can collect from other sources equally reliable, and do so collect them when we reason with unbelievers; and 2. We do not, in this controversy, quote the Bible as an inspired volume, but simply as an historical document, and therefore not in that character in which the authority of the Church is necessary to authenticate it.
Nor, again, let it be said, that, since, in quoting the Bible to establish the point before us, we have only our private reason for interpreter, we are precluded by our own principles from quoting it at all; for to be able from the Bible and private reason alone to deduce the faith which is the condition sine qua non of salvation is one thing; to be able from the New Testament as an historical document to ascertain a simple matter of fact which it records is another and quite a different thing. Some things are clearly and expressly recorded in the Bible, and some are not. Those which are not clearly and expressly stated are not to be infallibly ascertained without an infallible interpreter. But if we are to deduce our faith from the Bible alone, we must be able by private reason alone to ascertain these as well as the others; for we are not to presume that Almighty God has revealed anything superfluous, or not essential to the faith. That we can so ascertain all that is contained in the Bible we have denied, and still deny; and so must every honest man who has ever seriously attempted the work of interpreting the Sacred Scriptures. But that there are some things in the Bible which may be infallibly ascertained, we have not denied, nor dreamed of denying. What is clearly and expressly taught in the Bible can be as easily and as infallibly ascertained as what is clearly and expressly taught in any other book; and if all in the book, were clear and express, we should no more need any interpreter, but our own reason prudently exercised, than we should for a decree of a council or a brief of the Pope. It is the character of the book itself that renders the interpreter necessary; and the fact, that its character is such as demands an interpreter to make obvious its contents is, to say the least, a strong presumption that Almighty God never intended it as the fountain from which we are to draw our faith by private reason alone. If he had so intended it, he would have made it so plain, so express, so definite, that no one, with ordinary prudence, could fail to catch its precise meaning. But admitting the obvious insufficiency of private reason to interpret the whole Bible and deduce from it the faith we are required to have, we may still contend that by the reason common to all men we are able to determine even infallibly some of its contents. No objection can, then, be urged against our quoting it in the present controversy, especially since we shall quote only what is clear, distinct, and express, and what all must admit to be so.
In proof of our position, that Jesus Christ has appointed, commissioned, a body of teachers with authority to teach, we quote the well-known passage in St. Matthew's Gospel, xxviii. 18, 19, 20, "All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye, therefore, and teach all nations, ..... teaching them to Observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you; and behold, I am with you all days unto the consummation of the world;" also, St. Mark, xvi. 15, "Go ye into all the earth, and preach the Gospel unto every creature;" and, Eph. iv. 11, "And some indeed be gave to be apostles, and some prophets, and some evangelists, and others pastors and teachers."
These are conclusive as to the fact that Jesus Christ did commission a body of teachers, or institute the Ecclesia docens. The commission is from one who had authority to give it, because from one unto whom was given all power in heaven and in earth; it was a commission to teach, to teach all nations, to preach the Gospel to "every creature," --equivalent, to say the least, to all nations and individuals, --and to teach all things whatsoever Jesus Christ himself commanded. The commission is obviously as full, as express, as unequivocal, as language can make it, and was given by our Blessed Lord after his resurrection, immediately before his ascension.
That this was not merely a commission to the Apostles personally is evident from the terms of the commission itself, and the promise with which it closes. It was the institution and commission of a body or corporation of teachers, which beginnidg with the Apostles and continuing the identical body they were, must subsist unto the consummation of the world. For they who were commissioned were commanded to teach all nations and individuals, and in the order of succession as well as in the order of coexistence; for such is the literal import of the terms. But this command the Apostles personally did not fulfil, for all nations and individuals, even using the term all to imply a moral and not a metaphysical universality, have not yet been taught; they could not fulfil it, for during their personal lifetime all nations and individuals were not even in existence. Then One of three things; --1. The Apostles failed to fulfil the command of their Master; 2. Our Blessed Lord gave an impracticable command; or, 3. The commission was not to the Apostles in their personal character. We can say neither of the first two; therefore we must say the last.
But the commission was to the Apostles, and therefore the body of teachers must, in some way, be identical with them, as is evident from the command, "Go ye," indisputably addressed to the Apostles themselves. But they can be identical with the Apostles in but two ways: --1. Personally; 2. Corporately. They are not personally identical, for that would make them the Apostles themselves, as numerical individuals, which we have just seen they are not. Then they must be corporately identical. Then the commission was to a corporation of teachers. The commission give ample authority to teach. Therefore Jesus Christ did commission a body of teachers with ample authority to teach, --and since commissioned to teach all nations and individuals in the order of succession as well as of coexistence, a perpetual or always subsisting corporation. Thus the very letter of the commission sustains our position.
The promise with which the commission closes does the same. "Behold I am with you all days unto the consummation of the world." They to whom this promise was made, and with whom the Saviour was to be present were identical with the Apostles, for he says to the Apostles, "I am with you." They were to be in time, that is, in this life; for he says, I am with you all days, --..... ... ......-- which cannot apply to eternity, in which the divisions of time do not obtain. They were not the Apostles personally, because our blessed Saviour says again, "I am with you all days unto the consummation of the world," which is an event still future, and the Apostles personally have long since ceased to exist as inhabitants of time. But they were identical with the Apostles, and, since not personally, they must be corporately identical. Therefore the promise was to be with the Apostles, as a body or corporation of teachers, all days even unto the consummation of the world. But Jesus Christ cannot be with a body that is not. Therefore the body must remain unto the consummation of the world. Therefore our Blessed Lord has instituted, appointed, commissioned a body or corporation of teachers, identical with the Apostles, continuing their authority, and which must remain unto the consummation of the world.
The same is also established by the blessed Apostle Paul in the passage quoted from Ephesians, iv. 11, "And he indeed gave some to be apostles, and some prophets, and some evangelists, and others to be pastors and teachers," taken in connexion with 1 Cor. xii. 28, 11, "And God indeed hath set some in the Church, first, apostles, secondly, prophets, thirdly, teachers, after that miracles, then the graces of healings, helps, governments, kinds of tongues, interpretations of speeches." These texts, so far as we adduce them, clearly and distinctly assert that God has set in the Church, or congregation of believers, pastors and teachers as a perpetual ordinance. They prove more than this, for which at another time we may contend; but they prove at least this, which is all we are contending for now. "God hath set," "God gave to be." These expressions prove the pastors and teachers to be of Divine appointment, and therefore that they are not created or commissioned by the congregation itself. They are set in the Church, given to be, as a perpetual ordinance; for the rule for understanding any passage of scripture, sacred or profaue, is to take it always in a universal sense, unless the assertion of the passage be necessarily restricted in its application by something in the nature of the subject, or in the context, some known fact, or some principle of reason or of faith. But obviously nothing of the kind can be adduced, to restrict the sense of these passages either in regard to time or space. They are, therefore, to be taken in their plain, obvious, unlimited sense. Therefore the institution of pastors and teachers is not only Divine, but universal and perpetual in the Church.
We may obtain the same result from the end for which the pastors and teachers are appointed; for the argumentum ad quem is not less conclusive than the argumentam a quo. If the end to be attained cannot be attained without assuming the authority and perpetuity of the body of pastors and teachers, we have a right to conclude their authority and perpetuity; since they are appointed by God himself, who cannot fail to adapt his means to his ends. For what end, then, has God instituted this body of pastors and teachers? The Apostle answers, "For the perfection of the saint, for the work of the ministry, unto the edification of the body of Christ, till we all meet in the unity of the falth, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the age of the fulness of Christ; that we may not now be children tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, in the wickedness of men, in craftiness by which they lie in wait to deceive; but, performing the truth in charity, we may in all things grow up in him who is the head, Christ." Eph. iv. 12-15. This needs no comment. The end here proposed, for which the Christian ministry is instituted, is one which always and everywhere subsists, and must so long as the world remains. But this is an end which obviously cannot be secured but by an authoritative and perpetual body of teachers. Therefore the body of teachers is authoritative and perpetual. Therefore, God, or God in Jesus Christ, has appointed, commissioned, a body of teachers, the Ecclesia docens, as an authoritative and perpetual corporation, to subsist unto the consummation of the world.
We have now proved the first part of our proposition, namely, the fact of the institution and commission of the Ecclesia docens as an authoritative and perpetual corporation of teachers. Its authority is in the commission to teach; its perpetuity, in the fact that it cannot discharge its commission without remaining to the consummation of the world, in the promise of Christ to be with it till then, which necessarily implies its existence unto the consummation of the world, and in the fact that the promise is to it as a corporation identical with the Apostles. The proof of this first part of our proposition necessarily proves the second, namely, the infallibility of the corporation. The Divine commission necessarily carries with it the infallibility of the commissioned to the full extent of the commission. It is on this fact that is grounded the evidence of miracles. Miracles do not prove the truth of the doctrine taught; they merely accredit the teacher, and this they do simply by proving that the teacher is Divinely commissioned. The fact to be established is the Divine commission. This once, established, it makes no difference whether established immeediately, by a miracle, or immediately, by the declaration of one already proved by miracles, as was our Blessed Lord, to speak by Divine authority. Jesus, it is conceded, spoke by Divine authority, even by those who, with the Christian Ex- aminer, deny his proper Divinity. Then a commission given by him was a Divine commission, and pledged Almighty God in like manner as if given by Almighty God himself directly. The teachers were, then, Divinely commissioned. Then in all matters covered by the commission they are infallible; for God himself vouches for the truth of their testimony, and must take care that they testify the truth and nothing but the truth.
Moreover, the command to teach implies the obligation of obedience. The commission is a command to teach, and to teach all nations and individuals. Then all nations and individuals are bound to believe and obey these teachers; for authority and obedience are correlatives, and where there is no duty to believe and obey, there is no authority to teach. But it is repugnant to reason and the known character of God to say that he makes it the duty of any one to believe and obey a fallible teacher, one who may both deceive and be deceived. Were he to do so, he would participate in the same fallibilitv, and be the false teacher's accomplice, which is impossible; for be is, as we have said, prima veritas in dicendo, in cognoscendo, et in dicendo, and therefore can neither deceive nor be deceived. Therefore they whom he has commissioned, must be infallible.
We prove the promise of infallibility also from the express testimony of the New Testament. "I will ask the Father," says the Saviour, addressing the disciples, "and he shall give you another Paraclete, that he may abide with you for ever, the Spirit of Truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, nor knoweth him; but ye shall know him, because he shall abide with you, and be in in you..... He shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your mind whatsoever I shall have said to you..... When he, the Spirit of Truth, shall come, be shall teach you all truth for he shall not speak of himself, but whatsoever things he shall hear he shall speak. He shall glorify me, for he shall receive of mine and declare it unto you." St. John, xiv. 16, l7, 26; xvi. 13, 14.
They to whom is here promised the Spirit of Truth are un- questionably the Apostles, who, we have seen, were commissioned as teachers; but to them nececessarily in their corporate capacity, as the Ecclesia docens, not personally, because it is said, the Paraclete shall "abide with you for ever." It is not to a body of teachers in general, that is, to any body of teachers which may claim to be Apostolic, that the promise is made, but to that body which is identical with the Apostles, because it is said, "he shall abide with you," that is, the Apostles. This identifies the subjects of this promise with the subjects of the commission before ascertained. The promise is express, and unmistakable. The Spirit of Truth was not only to abide with the teachers for ever, but was to teach them all things, and bring to their minds whatever Jesus may have said to, them; in a word, to teach them "all truth," that is, all truth included in the terms of the commission. If this be not a promise of infallibility, we confess we know not what would be.
The infallibility of the teachers is, then, established. But, for the special benefit of our Protestant readers, who are a little dull of apprehension on this subject, we repeat, that we do not predicate this infallibility of the body of teachers in their natural capacity, nor of their personal endowments. It in no way, manner, or shape, depends on their personal qualities or personal characters, however exalted, whether for intelligence, learning, sagacity, or sanctity. It is God speaking in and through them; God, who can choose the foolish things of this world to confound the wise, weak things to bring to naught the mighty, nay, base things, and things that are not, and out of the mouth of babes and sucklings show forth his truth and perfect his praise; who can make the wrath of men praise him, and even the wicked the instruments of his will and the organs of his word; and who does do so at times, that it may be seen that his truth does not stand in human wisdom, nor his Church depend on human virtue.
For the special benefit of the same class of readers, we remark, also, that the infallibility claimed extends only to those matters included in the terms of the commission. These are to "teach all things whatsoever" Jesus commands. In relation to those matters Jesus did not command, or concerning which he gave no commandment, infallibility is not claimed, and could not be established if it were. Nevertheless, from the nature of the case, the Church teaching must be the judge of what things Jesus has commanded her to teach, and therefore unquestionably the interpreter of her own powers. To assume to the contrary would be to deny her authority while seeming to admit it. If she alone has received authority to teach, she alone can say what she has authority to teach.
The indefectibility of the Ecclesia docens follows as a necessary consequence from what has been already established. The commission is the pledge of its own fulfilment. Whatever commission God gives must be fulfilled. This must be admitted, because the commission pledges God himself. The commission was, not of a body of teachers, that is, of some body of teachers who should always be found, but it was solely, exclusively, and expressly to the Apostolic ministry. It was to the identical body to whom Jesus himself spoke. He spoke to the Apostles. It was to them, and to them only, the commission was given. But it was a commission the terms of which imply that the commissioned must remain even unto the consummation of the world. But the Apostles none of them personally did so remain. Therefore, though given to them exclusively, it was not given to them in their personal character, but was given, as we have proved, to them as a corporation or body of teachers, in winch sense they may continue unto the consummation the world; for one of the attributes of a corporation is immortality, and, so long as the terms of its charter are observed, it is perpetuated as the same identical corporation. Now, as the commission was given to the Apostles as a corporation, it was given only to that identical corporation, continued or perpetuated in space, and time, which they were. But this commission is a commission to this corporation to teach, and to teach even to the consummation of the world. Then it must exist as the identical corporation to the consummation of the world. Then it can never fail to exist, or lose its identity. The comniission is a pledge of infallibility. Then it can never fail, or lose its identity as an infallible body. If it fail in neither of these respects, is is indefectible, so far as we have affirmed its indefectibility; for we have affirmed its indefectibility only as a body of infallible teachers.
If there be any truth in the principles laid down, any reliance to be placed on the promises of Almighty God made through his Son Jesus Christ, it is infallibly certain that God has, through his Son, established an infallible and indefectible ministry, or Ecclcsia docens, commanded it to teach all nations and individuals "all things whatsoever" be has revealed, and therefore commanded all nations and individuals to submit to it, to believe, observe, obey whatsoever it teaches as the revelation of God. The only remaining question for us is, Which of the pretended Christian ministries now extant is the true Apostolic ministry; that is to say, which is the body of teachers that inherits the promises? For if we find this one, we know then that it has the promise of infallibility, and that whatever it declares to be the word of God is the word of God. We can know then in whom we believe, and be certain. We need spend but a moment in answering this question. The ministry must be the identical Apostolic ministry, the identical corporation to which the promises were made. It is the corporate identity that is to be established. It is known already, that it, at any period we may assume, is in existence; for it is indefectible, and cannot fail. We say, then,
It is the Roman Catholic ministry. It can be no other. It cannot be the Greek Church. The Greek Church was formerly in communion with the Church of Rome, and made one corporation with it. The Church of Rome was then the true Church, Ecclesia docens, or it was not. If not, the Greek Church is false, in consequence of having communed with a false Church. If it was, the Greek Church is false, because it separated from it. So, take either born of the dilemma, the Greek Church is false, and its ministry not the Apostolic ministry which inherits the promises. The same reasoning will apply with equal force to any one of the Oriental sects not in communion with the See of Rome, and a fortiori to all the modern Protestant sects. Therefore the Roman Catholic ministry is the Apostolic corporation, because this corporation can be no other.
You object, in behalf of the Greek Church, that Rome separated from her, not she from Rome. This we deny. It is historically certain that the Greek Church, prior to the final separation, agreed with the Church of Rome on the matters (the Supremacy of the Pope and the Procession of the Holy Ghost) which were made the pretexts for separation. In the separation, the Greek Church denied what she bad before asserted, while Rome continued to assert the same doctrine after as before. Therefore the Greek Church was the dissentient party. Prior to the separation, the Greek Church agreed with the Roman in submitting to the papal authority. In the separation, the Greek Church threw off this authority, while the Roman continued to submit to it. Therefore the Greek Church was the separatist.
You insist, that, though the act of separation may indeed, have been formally the act of the Greek Church, yet the separation was really on the part of Rome, who had corrupted the faith, and rendered separation from her necessary to the purity of the Christian Church. But, if this be so, whatever the corruptions of the faith Rome had been guilty of, the Greek Church participated in them during her communion with Rome. If they vitiated the Latin Church, they equally vitiated the Greek. Then both had failed, and the true Church, which we have seen is indefectible, must have been somewhere else. Then the Greek Church could become a true Church by separating from the communion of the Latin Churlh only on condition of coming into communion with the true Church. But it came into communion with no Church. Therefore the Greek Church, at any rate, is false.
The same reasoning applies to the before mentioned Oriental sects, and a fortiori to Protestants. Protestants were once in communion with Rome. They either were then in communion with the Church of Christ, or they were not. If they were, they are not now, because they have separated from it. If they were not, they could come into communion with the Church of Christ only by joining the true Church. But they joined none. Therefore they are not in communion with the Church of Christ, and their pretended ministries are none of them the Apostolic ministry. Therefore, we say again, it is the Roman Catholic ministry, because it can be no other, and must be some one.
You object, that the true Church always subsists, indeed, but not always as a visible body, and therefore may be neither one nor another of the special church organizations extant, but in point of fact be dispersed through them all. But this objection is not pertinent; for we are not considering the question of the Church in the sense in which it is taken in this objection. The objection takes the word church in the sense of the congregation of the just, or persons called and sanctified; we, in the question before us, take it in the sense of the congregation of Christian pastors and teachers, in which sense it can neither be invisible nor dispersed. It is the witness to the fact of revelation, and it is essential that the witness should be visible, that its competency and credibility may be judged of. It is commanded to teach all nations and individuals, and all nations and individuals are therefore commanded to believe and obey whatever it teaches. But, if invisible, this command is impractible; for we could never know where, when, or what it teaches, and therefore whether we believed and obeyed its teachings, or not. It cannot be dispersed through various communions, because it is a corporation, and its dispersion would be its dissolution. It is a corporation of teachers. No man has a right to teach, unless commissioned by Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ, as we have seen, commissions individuals only in and througb the commission of the body. Then one must be united to the body, as the condition of receiving a commission to teach. Therefore the teachers cannot be dispersed through different corporations. The teacbing body is infallible, and, if dispersed through all communions, the truth must be infallibly taught in all communions. But it is so taught only in one communion because all communions differ among themselves, and could not differ had they no error. As no two can be found that agree, only one can have the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. Therefore the ministry in question is only one, and not dispersed. It cannot be dispersed; for, if it were, it could not answer the end of its institution, which is to maintain unity of faitb, perfect the saints in the knowledge of the Son of God, and prevent us from being children tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine; for to secure this end it must be public, recognizable, one, uniform, and authoritative. Nor could the individual teacher ever verify his commission, as a teacher sent from God, unless be can point to the visible body of which be is a member, and which was commissioned by Jesus Christ, and from him inherits the promises. Therefore we dismiss this notion of the invisible Church, and of an invisible body of true Christian teachers dispersed through various and conflicting communions. Such teachers would be as good as none, for no one could distinguish them from false teachers.
We repeat, then, the Roman Catholic ministry is the Apostolic ministry, for this Ministry can be no other. This conclusion very few, perhaps none, would deny, if they admitted, what we have proved, that Jesus Christ did institute such a ministry as we contend for. If there be an infallible Church, authorized by the Saviour to teach, all must say, it is indisputably the Roman Catholic Church; for all see it can be no other, and, in fact no other even pretends to be it.
But we may prove our proposition not merely by the removal or destruction of the negative, but by plain, positive, affirmative evidence. The first method of proof is conclusive in itself; the second is also conclusive in itself. All that is to be done to prove the proposition affirmitively is, to identify the Roman Catholic ministry, as a corporation, with the corporation Jesus Christ instituted and commissioned in the persons of the Apostles. The kind of evidence needed is the same as is requisite in any case of the identification of a corporation. The identity is established by showing that the corporation retains its original name, and has regularly succeeded to the original corporators. The name is not conclusive evidence, but is a presumption of identity. In the present case, it is easy to prove that the ministry in question retains the Apostolic name. This name is Catholic, and the Roman Catholic Church bears it, and always has borne it. It is and always has been known and distinguished by it, and no other corporation is or ever has been known or distinguished by it. The old Donatists claimed it, but could not appropriate it. They are known only as Donatists. Some members of the English and American Episcopal Church, now and then, put on airs, and with great emphasis call themselves Catholics; but the bystanders only smile, for they see the long ears peering out from under the lion's skin. While, on the other hand, go into any city in the world and ask the first lad you meet to direct you to the Catholic Church, and he will direct you without hesitation to the Roman Catholic Church. This shows, that, by the common judgment and consent of mankind, the distinctive appellation of the Church in communion with the See of Rome is Catholic.
The regular succession of the Roman Catholic ministry to the Apostolic is easily made out. We can establish the regular succession of pontiffs from St. Peter to Gregory the Sixteenth, the present Pope; and this establishes the unity of the corporation in time, and therefore its identity. The regular succession and unity of authority of the corporation can also be established in the orders and mission of the pastors; for the Catholic ministry has never been schismatic. This regular succession and unity of authority establishes, of course, the identity of the corporation. Then the Catholic ministry is identical with the Apostolic ministry. The two points on which this conclusion depends we leave, of course, without adducing in detail the historical proof of them. Established historically, they warrant the conclusion. They can be established by conclusive historical proof. Therefore the conclusion stands firm.
We establish our proposition, then, by showing that the Apostolic ministry can be no other than the Roman Catholic, and by showing that it is the Roman Catholic. Nothing more conclusive than this double proof can be desired. Then we sum up by repeating, that Jesus Christ has instituted and commissioned an infallible and indefectible body of teachers, and this body is the congregation of the Roman Catholic pastors in conmmunion with their chief. The Catholic Church, then, is the witness to the fact of revelation. What its pastors declare to be the word of God is the word of God; what they enjoin as the faith is the faith without which it is impossible to please God, and without which we are condemned and the wrath of God abideth on us. What they teach is the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth; for God himself has commissioned them, and will not suffer them to fall into error in what concerns the things they have been commissioned to teach.
The question of the Church as the congregation of believers can detain us but a moment. We agree with The Christian Examiner, that the Church in this sense embraces "the whole company of believers, the uncounted and wide-spread congregation of all those who receive the Gospel as the law of life; that the Church of Christ comprehends and is composed of all his followers." But who are these? "My sheep," says our blessed Lord, "hear my voice and follow me." We must bear his voice, as the condition of following him, or being his followers. But we cannot hear his voice where it is not, where it speaks not. Where, then, speaks his voice? In the Catholic Church, in and through the Catholic pastors, and nowhere else. Then we hear his voice, only as we hear the voice of the Catholic Church, and follow him only as we follow what this Church in his name commands. Only they then, who bear and obey the Catholic Church are of the Church, --only they who are in the communion of this Church are in the communion of Christ. It is time, then, to abandon No-Churchism, and to return to the one fold of the one Shepherd, and submit ourselves to the guidance of the pastors he has made rulers and teachers of the flock.
We do not suppose this conclusion will be very pleasing to our Protestant readers, and we do not suppose anything we could say, conscientiously, would please them; for we do not see any right they have to be pleased, standing where they do. There is the stubborn fact, that no man has God for his father who has not the Church for his mother, which cannot be got over; and if we have not the true Church for our mother, then "are we bastards and not sons." The presumption, to say the least, is strongly against our Protestant brethren; and they have great reason to fear, that, after all, they are only "children of the bondwoman." They may try to hide this from themselves, and to stifle the voice of conscience by crying out "Popery!" "Papist!" "Romanist!" "Idolatry!" "Superstition!" and the like, but this can avail them little. They may make light of the question, and think themselves excused from considering it. But there comes and must come to the greater part of them an hour when they feel the need of something more substantial than anything they have. They may use swelling words, and speak in a tone of great confidence; but the best of them have their doubts, nay, long periods when they can keep up their courage, and persuade themselves that they hope, only by shutting their eyes, refusing to think, plunging into religious dissipation, or giving way to the wild and destructive bursts of fanaticism and superstition. The great question of the salvation of the soul must at times press heavily upon them, and create no little anxiety. For it is a terrible thing to be forced into the presence of God uncovered by the robe of the Redeemer's righteousness, --a terrible thing to have all the sins of our past life come througing back on the memory, and to feel that they are registered against us, unrepented of, unforgiven; a terrible thing to feel that the number of these sins is daily and hourly increasing that we ourselves are continually exposed to the allurements of the world, the seductions of the flesh, and the temptations of the devil, with no weapon but our own puny arm with which to defend ourselves, and no strength but our own infirmity with which to recover and maintain our integrity. Alas I we know what this is. We know what it is to feel oppressed with the heavy load of guilt, to struggle alone in the world, against all manner of enemies, without faith, without hope, without the help of God's sacraments; we knew what it is to feel that we must trust in our own arm and heart, stand on the pride of our own intellect and conviction. We know, too, what it is to feel all these defences fail, all this trust give way; for to us have come, as well as to others, those trying moments when the loftiest are laid low, and the proudest, prostrate in the dust, cry out from the depth of their spiritual agony, "Is there no help? 0 God! why standest thou afar off? Help, help, or I perish!" Alas! there are moments when we cannot trifle, when we cannot lean on a broken reed, when we must have something really Divine, something on which we can lay hold that will not break, and leave us to drop into everlasting perdition. It is a terrible question this of the salvation of the soul, and no man can prudently put it off. It must be met and answered, and the sooner the better.
We urge this upon our Protestant brethren. They have no solid ground on which to stand, no sure help on which to rely. Their own restlessness proves it; their perpetual variations and shifting of their creeds prove it; the new and strange sects constantly springing up amongst them prove it; their worldly-mindedness, their universal and perpetual striving after what they have not, and find not, prove it; the wide-spread infidelty which prevails among them, and the still more destructive indifferency prove it. Their spiritual strength is the strength of self-confidence or of desperation. They cannot live so. There is no good for them in their present state. Why will they not ask if there be not a better way? If they will but seek, they shall find, --knock, it shall be opened to them. There is that faith which they deny, and that certainty which they ridicule. But they will find it not in their pride. They will find it not till they learn to look on him they have despised, and to fly for succour to him they have crucified. But we have been betrayed into remarks, which, though true, would come with a better grace from one whose faith is less recent than our own. Yet we have said nothing by way of vain-glory. If we have faith, it is no merit of ours. We have been brougbt by a wav we knew not, and by a Power we dared not resist; and His the praise and the glory and ours the shame and mortification that for so many years we groped in darkness, boasting that we could see, and holding up our farthing-candle of a misguided reason as a light that was to enlighten the world!
We have been asked, "How in the world have you become a Catholic?" In this essay we have presented an outline, or rather a specimen, of the answer we have to give. It is incomplete; but it will satisfy the attentive reader, that not without some show of reason, at least, have we left our former friends and the endearing associations of our past life, and joined ourselves to a Church which excites only the deadly rage of the great mass of our countrymen. The change with us is a great one, and a greater one than the world dreams of, or will dream of. At any rate, it is a change we would not have made if we could have helped it, --a change against which we struggled long, but for which, though it makes us a pilgrim and a sojourner in life, and permits us no home here below, we can never sufficiently praise and thank our God. It is a great gain to lose even earth for heaven. If, however, we be pressed to give the full reason of our change, we must refer to the grace of God, and the need we felt of saving our own soul.
1. This subject the reader will find still further discussed in the articles which follow in reply to the Episcopal Observer, and Professor Thornwell.
Essays and Reviews (1880) p. 1