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perfect and conclusive. No man ever has doubted the fact, or ever can doubt it. Though the evidence is of a different kind, no mathematical demonstration is more convincing. But the tradition of that church for any oral teaching of the Reformers, is absolutely null, it is nothing. In like manner the testimony of the church to the authenticity of the New Testament is as strong as historical testimony can be, while its testimony to the oral teaching of the apostles may be made « to conclude any thing or nothing.”
It is very clear that the men who remove our faith from the sure and stable foundation, and place it on one which is false and feeble, are in fact taking the best course to destroy faith altogether. The testimony of the scripture is true and trustworthy; the testimony of tradition, taken as a whole, is in the highest degree uncertain, unsatisfactory and erroneous. This is so, and men cannot but find it out, and when required to believe on grounds which they see to be so unstable, they will either not believe at all, or they will commit themselves blindfold to the guidance of their priests. Infidelity, therefore, or blind, superstitious faith, is invariably attendant on tradition. Speaking in general terms, such is and ever has been its effects in the Řomish church. Those who think are infidels; those who do not, are blind and superstitious.
As it is the tendency and actual working of tradition to supersede the word of God, and to destroy the very foundation of faith, so it has never failed to introduce a system of false doctrines and of priestly tyranny. If you take men from the infallible teaching of God, and make them depend on the foolish teaching of men, the result cannot fail to be the adoption of error and heresy. This is a conclusion which all experience verifies. And as to ghostly domination, the result is no less natural and certain. The inalienable and inestimable right of private judgment, which is nothing else than the right to listen to the voice of God speaking in his word, is denied to us. We are told that we must not trust that voice; it is too indistinct; it says too little; and is too liable to lead us into error. We must hearken to tradition. When we ask, where is this tradition? we are told in the church. When we ask further, which church? we are told the Catholic church. When we ask which church is Catholic ? we are told, that one whose teachings and institutions can stand the test of antiquity, universality and catholicity. When we say that this is a
test exceedingly difficult to apply, requiring immense labour and research, and that it is exceedingly precarious, concluding any thing or nothing;" we receive two answers, one on rare occasions, which is absurdly inconsistent with the whole theory, and that is, that we must judge for ourselves; we must use our “common sense,” and act as we do in “ trade, politics or war;" take that for the true church, and that for the teaching of tradition, which we on the whole think most likely to be so. That is, although we are forbid to judge for ourselves what our blessed Lord means, when he says, Come unto me all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Verily, verily, I say unto you, he that believeth on me hath everlasting life; and him that cometh to me, I will in no wise cast out; yet we are told to judge for ourselves, what all the Greek and Latin fathers mean; in what points they all agree; which of the conflicting councils were truly general, whether that in which three hundred bishops decided right, or that in which six hundred decided wrong. When we have done all this, then we may judge for ourselves, which is that true Catholic church which is authorized to tell us what those things mean which are revealed even unto babes. As this is such a many-sided absurdity, we rarely hear this answer given. It is only when an unwonted sprightliness or levity leads the traditionist, as in the case of Mr. Newman, to strip the mask from the whole system of fraud and imposture.
It is so manifest an impossibility for the mass of ordinary Christians to apply the test of antiquity, universality and catholicity, in order to decide which is the true church, and what tradition really teaches, that the enquirer is commonly simply told to “hear the church ;” and as he cannot tell which church he ought to hear, he must hear the one that speaks to him, be it the Romish, the Greek, or the English, If the church within whose pale he happens to live, teaches him error, even fundamental error, he has no relief. He must submit his soul to his church ; he must subject his heart, his conscience, and his life, to her guidance, and wait until he enters eternity to find out whither she has led him. Still further, as every church speaks to its members, mainly through the parish priest; as he is her organ of communication, the parish priest is to the great majority of Christians the ultimate arbiter of life and death. They must take his word for what is the true church, and for what that church teaches. Thus what in sounding phrase is called the
church catholic and apostolic, turns out in practice to be one poor priest. The Bible, Christ and God are all put aside to make the soul depend on the fidelity and competency of one sinful, feeble man. Where tradition has its perfect work, there, in point of fact, the souls of the people are in the power of the priest, their faith and practice are subject to his control.
This same result is reached in another way. We have seen that it is virtually admitted by traditionists that their system cannot be found in the scripture, nor in the first three centuries. We believe, say they, what the fifth century believed and because the church of that age believed. The reason of this obvious. Priestly power was not fully established before the fifth century. To find a system suited to their taste, they must come away from the Bible and from the early church, and turn to an age in which salvation was doled out for pence; when priestly excommunication was a sentence of death ; when pardon, grace, and eternal life were granted or withheld at the option of the clergy; when the doctrines of episcopal grace, and sacramental religion, had subjected all classes of men and all de partments of life to ghostly domination. We do not say that the modern traditionists love this system, merely or mainly because of the power it gives the clergy, but we say that the system which they love, has ever had, and from its nature must have the effect of exalting the priesthood and of degrading the people.
Where the Spirit of the Lord is there is liberty. The men who read the Bible and hear there the voice of God, cannot but be free. It commands their assent and secures their homage. They cannot be subject to men in things whereof God has spoken. All the traditionists in the world cannot persuade them that the Bible is not the intelligible voice of God, or that there is either duty or safety in closing their ears to that voice, in order to listen to the mutterings of tradition. Our blessedness is to be free from men, that we may be subject to God; and we cannot be thus subject, without being thus free.
We have reason then still to assert and defend the position that the Bible, the Bible alone is the religion of Protestants; we want no other and we want no more. It is the rule of our faith. It is infallible, perspicuous, complete and accessible. It is able to make us wise unto salvation ; being inspired of God, it is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for
correction, for instruction in righteousness; that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto every good work. A better, surer rule than inspired scripture we cannot have; and it must stand alone, or fall. If men bring their torches around the pillar of fire, the sacred light goes out, and they are left to their own guidance; and then the blind lead the blind.
TAE Ambassador of God: or the True Spirit of the Christian Ministry as
represented in the mind of Jesus Christ. A Sermon Preached in the Ger. man Reformed Church, Chambersburg, Pa., July 10, 1842, at the ordination and installation of the Rev. W. Wilson Bonnell, as Pastor of said Congregation. By Rev. John W. Nevin, D. D. Published by request of the Congregation. Chambersburg, 8 vo. pp. 21.
A pious, sensible discourse on John vi: 38, in which the preacher shows that the faithful minister must have the work of God for the business of his life; that he must attend upon this work as the work of God, referring it all to him as its author and its end; not working merely to provide a support for himself and family or to make himself rich, nor nierely or chiefly to advance a party interest; not pursuing it merely as an intellectual or scientific work; but working in the light and with the Spirit of God's holy and infinitely perfect mind; in which case, and no other, the office, though responsible, is full of honour and surrounded by encouragements. Hints on the Interpretation of Prophecy. By M. Stuart, Professor in An
dover Theological Seminary. Andover: 1842. pp. 146.
This volume will, no doubt, be read with interest by the many who are naturally curious to know the views of so eminent a biblical write rupon some of the most difficult and delicate points in hermeneutics. We can merely say at present that the topics treated are the double sense of prophecy, the question whether it is intelligible before fulflment, and the designations of time in prophecy. Philosophy and Faith. A Sermon, preached to the Graduating Class in
Dartmouth College, on the Sabbath before Commencement, 1842. By Nathan Lord, D. D., President. Published at the request of the class. Hanover : 1842.
It is perhaps owing to our own negligence, that we here for the first time become acquainted with President Lord, as an author; we shall take up with avidity any future production of his pen. The sermon contains passages, it is true, which might demand explanation, before they could carry our full concurrence; but as a whole, it is sound, original, bold, and seasonable, and contains some bursts of distinguished eloquence. It has been too uncommon,