« PreviousContinue »
whenever the doctrines of revelation are believed finally on the authority of God.
Secondly, the testimony of the church, though given by fallible men, is a means sufficient to produce the firmest conviction that certain doctrines were revealed by God.
Those professing Christians who rashly and inconsiderately deny this position, and who set aside human testimony as uncertain, in order to establish some system of their own, do not suppose that this mode of reasoning tends to the subversion of Christianity itself: but it does so very plainly. If all human testimony be uncertain, then all the external evidence for the genuineness, authenticity, and uncorrupted preservation of scripture is uncertain: if all human testimony be uncertain, then all the evidence of the perpetual existence, universality, belief, and judgments of the church, is uncertain. Thus there is no external evidence of religion left, except the assumed infallibility of the existing church, which itself can only be known to exist universally, or to give any particular evidence on any point, by human testimony; and therefore on this principle there is no foundation for religion at all. But the principle does not stop here, it would render all the facts of history doubtful, would lead us to doubt whether Cæsar or Alexander the Great ever lived, whether any country which we have not visited ourselves exists, whether there be a sovereign if we have not ourselves seen him, or magistrates if we have not witnessed their appointment'.
Such a principle then is opposed to common sense.
See the very able argument Christianisme, ou Conférences sur of M. Fraysinnous, bishop of la Religion." (Sur le Témoignage, Hermopolis, in his “ Défense du tom. i.) VOL. II.
It is evident that human testimony in all these instances is capable of producing so high a degree of certainty, and is really so credible, that he who disputed it would be justly regarded as insane. Hence I contend that human testimony is a sufficient means of conducting us to divine faith, by assuring us infallibly of the fact that God has revealed certain truths.
It must be observed, that while the instruction of the existing church as far as it is exercised on individuals, is an ordinary means of producing faith ; that faith does not rest entirely or finally on the authority of the existing church'. This authority assures us most credibly that God revealed certain truths, that the scriptures which we have, may be relied on as his word, that the christians have always believed as we do. Nor are we prevented, but encouraged, according to our opportunities, to confirm our faith and enlarge our knowledge, by consulting the word of God and the records of the church. The learned will at last rest their faith on the word of God, that is, on the true meaning of scripture, established by the consent of all ages and the irrefragable judgments of the universal church:
s“By experience we all know, duction, to bring us to the disthat the first outward motive cerning and perfect apprehension leading men so to esteem of the of divine things, but is not the scriptures” (that they are the ora- ground of our faith, and reason cles of God) “is the authority of of believing." – Field, Of the God's church. For when we know Church, book iv. c. 8. the whole church of God hath that ' Michael Medina (one of the opinion of the scripture, we judge theologians at Trent,) attempts it even at the first an impudent to prove that the ultimate resoluthing for any man bred and
tion of faith is into the authority brought up in the church, to be of the church.-De recta in Deum of a contrary mind without cause. Fide, lib. v. c. 11. Melchior
- Hooker's Works, vol. i. p. 475, Canus denies this, and teaches ed. Keble. “ The authority of that our faith rests finally on the God's church prepareth us unto authority of God. De locis the faith, and serveth as an intro. Theol. lib. ii. c. 8.
It is therefore in vain objected, that if the testimony of the existing church be the ordinary means of faith, Luther and the reformers were unjustifiable in disputing any point of doctrine, which they had been taught by the existing Roman church: for we deny that faith is founded on the testimony of the existing church as supernatural or infallible ; and if in any point the more common opinion be found on attentive examination inconsistent with scripture and the opinion of former ages, it may be rejected; because the testimony of the existing church derives its value only from its faithfully representing the doctrine of scripture and of antiquity. I do not affirm, however, nor is it to be believed, that the whole existing church would unanimously teach what was contrary to the articles of the faith certainly revealed by Christ; and the Reformation professed that it did not differ in any such points from the catholic, or even the Roman church, but only concerning matters of opinion and practice. It would also be in vain to object to our doctrine, that we cannot make an act of divine faith before we first open the scriptures to the following effect: “As I believe that God is, so I believe that this scripture is his word;” and that such an act can only be made by those who receive the scripture on the authority of the church as infallible": for it has been already shown that the testimony of the church when unanimous, as it is in this case, is capable of producing the most perfect conviction, though it be supposed nothing more than human testimony.
also says: “Ecclesiæ vox non mens fidelis.”—Lib. viii. Princ. est ultima fidei resolutio, ita ut cap. 20. in ea tanquam in authoritatem Bossuet, Conférence avec M. supremam desinat in eaque sistat Claude, Euvres, t. xxiii. p. 300.
We are not guilty of arguing in a circle when we prove the church from scripture. We believe that a falsehood cannot have obtained universal currency among the learned and the good, among contradictory sects and parties. We think it rational to believe the testimony of all men to that which most men can have no interest in supporting if it be not true. We believe on that testimony, that the Bible is genuine, authentic, uncorrupted, that it has always been received by christians as we find it, that it is fairly translated. And from the plain language of that record we deduce the spiritual authority of the church. Our adversaries, in their eagerness to establish that authority, assume it to be the only proof of scripture, and then prove it from scripture, thus finally resting the proof of the church's authority on the church's authority: a mode of argument which is perfectly absurd, and which Roman theologians are obliged instantly to relinquish, when they attempt to defend Christianity against infidels. They are then compelled to adopt our course, to commence with the testimony of the church as morally certain, but not as infallible by the assistance of God; and having established revelation on this most firm and rational basis, to employ it in proof of the church's divine privileges'.
Cardinal de la Luzerne, in their authenticity as a matter replying to the charge of arguing agreed on both sides. If we had in a circle, observes: “It is false to prove this authenticity, we that we prove the authenticity of should indeed argue from the testhe books and the true meaning of timony of the church, not of the the texts we employ, only by the church as an infallible judge, but infallible authority of the judge as a constant and perpetual witof controversies. With regard to ness since the publication of those authenticity, we only employ, to books; and as having always reprove infallibility, passages taken garded them as her law. It is from books which the protestants thus that we are sure that the receive as we do. We suppose Alcoran was truly the work of The controversy between Bossuet and M. Claude, Calvinist minister of Charenton, in which the former had evidently the advantage, turned very much on two points; first, whether belief founded on human testimony must necessarily be human and uncertain : secondly, whether it is essential to true faith to be founded on personal examination. Claude incautiously admitted the former: whence Bossuet inferred, not unreasonably, that the Protestants have nothing but an uncertain faith in scripture, which is the very foundation of their whole religion. Claude also maintained the latter in the affirmative, which enabled Bossuet to argue that protestants must begin by examining, and therefore doubting the authority of the scripture; that they must still examine after the universal church has decided; and in fine, that a private person, a woman, or any ignorant person, may and ought to believe that he may happen to understand God's word better than a whole council, though assembled from the four quarters of the world, and than all the rest of the church. It is curious however to observe, that Bossuet evaded for a long time any reply to Claude's objection, that
Mahomet. It is thus we know committed to writing what they the authenticity of all books what- were commanded by God to soever.”— Dissert. sur les Eglises teach everywhere.”—(Tract. de Cath. et Prot. t ii. p. 263, 264. Eccl. p. 107.) After this, the This is precisely our mode of church, he says, is proved from argument. In the same manner scripture, and here certainly is no Delahogue says: “When we have vicious circle: but how absurd is to do with adversaries who deny it then to turn upon us, and call both scripture and the church on us to admit doctrines solely we argue differently. First we on the infallible authority of the prove the authenticity of the scrip- church, because we have no other tures in the same way as it is cus- proof of the authenticity of scriptomary to prove the authenticity of ture except that infallible authoother works : then we prove that rity. their authors were inspired, who
w Ut supra.