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interpreting them. Now, if there were such a thing as a paramount right of private judgment, it would be our part to say, they may be right, they may be as right
Take a case in which there is such an undeniable right of private judgment. It exists, for example, as to the form of our houses, the fashion of our furniture, the colour of our clothes; who here ever thinks of saying that a man who differs from him is wrong? We say each of the other in this case, “ Let every one please himself, and he will please me. It would be considered most intolerable insolence in such matters, that should attempt to condemn his neighbour as wrong. But so far is this from being the case in religion, that I feel myself bound to protest against the Socinian and the Papist. I feel myself bound to cry aloud and warn them of the fact, that they abide under the influence of mortal error; nay, so emphatic is this duty, that God himself suspends life and death on the performance of it. (Ezek. iii.)
The truth is, there are divers systems of interpreting the Scriptures, which masses or companies of men take as their rule.
1. There is the Church system. 2. There is the Romish system. 3. There is the Socinian system. 4. There is the Quaker system. Whether there be more or not, it does not concern my present purpose to determine. These several standards actually are raised : and we at least anathematize, if I may so speak, as dangerously erroneous, the man who interprets the Scripture so as to draw from it essential doctrines at variance with our own. We call those who
with us in sentiment, orthodox : the others are denominated heterodox. It is quite in vain to attempt to deny it. Go where you will-to America, to the Continent of Europe, France, Germany, Italy, Spain--everywhere a standard will be found to be raised. I do not know that the general correctness of our Church of England standard, as to essential points, has ever been called in question among what we call orthodox Protestants. There is, then, a rule of faith in addition to the Scripture. It is undeniable : common sense acknowledges it.
And, moreover, there is a correct standard. There is a correct living rule, according to agreement or disagreement with which as to essential points the orthodoxy or heterodoxy of individuals is judged of. That living rule is most unquestionably the Church-the pure, spiritual Church of Christ. Mede defines that true Church of Christ thus :—"By the true Church of Christ I under“ stand that holy society and company of believers “ which, as they accord and are joined together in one “ common faith of all divine truths needful to salvation,
so are they also free from the fellowship of such enor
mous abominations and mortal errors as destroy and “ overturn it.” (Apost. of Lat. Times, Part I. ch. x.) And well does the Roman Catholic argue, however fatally for himself, that there must be such a standard. THERE MUST. If there were not, God would have left himself without witness. Error could neither be reproved nor rebuked, and it would be a common duty to allow all to go to heaven or hell just as they chose, without remonstrance or admonition. If the right of private judgment as it is ordinarily taken be indefeasible, I can come to no issue in a dispute with a Socinian for instance, with a Quaker, with an Irvingite, with a Unitarian, or with any other person
may deviate from sound doctrine. My duty is simply to leave them with a lukewarm declaration, that I fear they may be wrong. I am not warranted authoritatively to pronounce them in error, and to warn others against being led astray by them. As the case is, however, I solemnly inform them of their danger, and exhurt all to beware of their delusions. “ They have gone out from us, for they were not of us; for if they were of us, no doubt they would have continued with us. “ There must be heresies, that they that are approved may be made manifest.”
Why, the mere Scriptural use of the word “heresy” proves the truth ; for what does heresy mean? It means a choosing that is, a choosing for one's self instead of abiding in what St. Paul calls the “common faith” in Titus, i. 4. and the “mutual faith" in Rom. i. 12.–St. Peter “like precious faith with us.” As, then, there is a living standard of correct doctrine ; so there must be, and I cannot by any means deny, nor do I attempt to invalidate the texts which the Roman Catholic in controversy is accustomed to bring forward with the view of shewing that Christ established a Church to be the pillar and the ground of truth. Indeed, the texts cannot be denied, nor the arguments invalidated.
Now mark here the great peril to which souls have been subjected by the ordinary mode of assailing Popery. When they have been brought to see that there are certain modes of getting over the popular objections made against the false doctrines of that corrupt system, and to fancy that there may be certain benefits arising from them, they then hear those strong and valid arguments for the existence of a Church with power to determine “controversies concerning the faith,"* they hear, I say, those strong arguments which I have alluded to, and a great deal of declamation as to the evils of sectarianism and such disunion as is found in the Protestant Church; and having heard all this, it seems the most likely thing in the world that they should be led to embrace the Popish system. For
DANGER OF DENYING THIS RULE-STRONG ROMAN CATHOLIC
They see from Scripture that Christ established a Church with which he declared he would continue to the end of the world. They hear Popery putting forth—as she has ordinarily done under the sole right-of-privatejudgment system-UNDISPUTED claims to be that Church ; and, if these claims be not disputed, it will follow as an infallible consequence, that that Church cannot have fallen into the errors which are attributed to her,—that consequently all our objections must be merely sophistical, and that the Church which cannot be denied to be Apostolical and Catholic, even the Roman Church, must in reality be pure and holy also, notwithstanding the cavils of her adversaries. This argument constitutes the stronghold of Popery. Through it she has gained whatever victims have lately fallen into her power. I give an extract from a Roman Catholic work, intended for the popular instruction of the lower orders of Roman Catholics as to the points in controversy between the Churches, which is calculated to shew the weight that they attach to the argument. The work is entitled,
* See Art. XX.
“ Grounds of the Catholic Doctrine; to which are added, Reasons why a Roman Catholic cannot conform to the Protestant Religion.” Published by D. Wogan, Dublin. 1820.
The second reason_stated, why a Roman Catholic cannot conform to the Protestant religion, is
“ Because the Protestant religion cannot be true, except the whole Scripture, both of Old and new Testament, from the beginning to the end, be false, which in so many places assures us, THAT THE CHURCH OF CHRIST SHALL NEVER GO ASTRAY; for every one knows that the Protestant religion pretends to be a reformation of lhe Church of Christ, and it is evident there could be no room for a reformation, except THE CHURCH WAS GONE ASTRAY; so that the whole building of their pretendedly reformed Church is founded upon this supposition of the WHOLE CHURCH, BEFORE THE TIME OF LUTHER, HAVING BEEN CORRUPTED BY DAMNABLE ERRORS. Laity and clergy says their homily book, approved by their Thirty-nine Articles. Article 35, Learned and unlearned, all ages, sects, and degrees of men, women and children, of whole christendom, (an horrible and most dreadful thing to think,) have been at once drowned in abominable idolatry; of all other vices most detested by God, and damnable to man, and that for the space of eight hundred years or more.' Hom.of Peril of Idolatry, Pari 3. “ Now, say, if this be true, which is the main foundation of the Protestant Church, SCRIPTURE, WHICH SO OFTEN PROMISES THAT CHRIST'S CHURCH SHALL NEVER BE CORRUPTED BY ERROR IN MATTERS OF FAITH, much less to be for so many ages overwhelmed with abominable idolatry must be false. Thou art Peter, says our Lord, Matt. xvi. 18; and upon this rock will I build my Church, and the gates of hell, the powers of darkness, shall not prevail against it. THEREFORE, THE CHURCH OF CHRIST COULD NEVER GO ASTRAY. Go, teach all nations, says the same Lord to the Apostles and their successors, the pastors of the Church, Matt. xxviii. 29, and behold I am with you always to the end of the world. THEREFORE, THE CHURCH OF CHRIST COULD NEVER FALL INTO ERRORS, BECAUSE CHRIST, WHO IS THE WAY, THE TRUTH, AND THE LIFE, (John xiv. 16.) HAS PROMISED HIS PREŠENCE AND ASSISTANCE TO HER TEACHERS, EVEN TO THE END OF THE WORLD. See also John xiv. 10, 16, where Christ promises to the same pastors and teachers of the Church the Comforter, the Spirit of Truth, to abide with them for ever, to teach them all things, v. 26, and guide them into all truth, chapter xvi. 15; and Isaias, lix. 20, 21, WHERE GOD PROMISES, THAT AFTER THE COMING OF OUR REDEEMER, THE CHURCH SHALL NEVER ERR. “This is my covenant with them, saith the Lord, my spirit, that is upon thee, and my words, which I have put in thy mouth, shall not depart out of thy mouth, nor out of the mouth of thy seed, nor out of the mouth of thy seed's seed, saith the Lord, from henceforth for ever.”