Imatges de pÓgina
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quiries and attacks, from one doctrine to another, began at length to shake the very foundations of the Romish Church.

The discovery of truth, in all cases in which it is not fortuitous, is an achievement of great difficulty, although, having once been discovered, truth of all kinds may be apprehended with

ease.

This is particularly the case with regard to those grand but simple propositions, which rank among the first principles of moral science. They were arrived at by slow and painful efforts; while they who were the instruments of eliciting them, were not, in many instances, fully conscious of the nature of the discovery. They were in the situation of a mariner driven by the exigencies of pursuit or bad weather, to harbour in some unknown position, the general features of which he has not time to explore; his only object being the present shelter it affords, and leaving it to others, who may follow in the same track, to avail themselves of its natural advantages. The most splendid actions, those which have been attended by the most beneficial results to mankind, have seldom taken their rise in enlarged views of the principles which they involve. The first step has been taken under the impulse of duty; and it has not been till the individuals were called upon to combat its consequences, that general principles have begun to occupy their attention.

Those very principles which could alone justify their conduct, would probably have been disclaimed by them with utter repugnance, had they been presented under the different modifications of which they are susceptible. No ordinary degree of moral intrepidity is requisite, to dare all the' consequences of admitted truths.

The principle upon which Luther was ultimately driven to take his stand, although he was far from having, at first, any distinct perception of its general bearings,--the principle upon which alone he was able to maintain his ground, was, the sufficiency and exclusive authority of the HOLY SCRIPTURES, as the sole standard of religious truth. This cardinal article of Protestantism was his fortress; he found it impregnable; and thus intrenched, he was able to bid defiance to the leagued powers of darkness. To the authorities of popes and councils, to the dogmas of the schools, to the decisions of the beatific doctor, and to all the sophistry of the casuists, he opposed simply the Bible, that sole umpire, that only ecclesiastical authority in matters of faith. This was the weapon, "the sword of the Spirit," with which he achieved the greatest moral victory that has been won since the establishment of Christianity.

Among a large class even of Protestants,

however, this grand truth, although bearing all the marks of clearness and certainty which characterize the principles of science, is far from being recognised as entitled to an unqualified assent. Like other general truths, in the absence of those circumstances which necessitate their being resorted to as the immediate rules of action, it is admitted in speculation, and then laid by in the mind's dormitory, among the rusty weapons and obsolete armour of intellectual warfare. There seems to prevail, indeed, in many cases, a secret dread of its being brought into use, as a rule of universal application; there is, at least, a strong propensity to stop short of its full development, as if, when pushed beyond a certain extent, it became unsafe to follow it out in practice. A principle true in itself, cannot, however, lose the character of truth, in consequence of its being carried too far, unless it can be proved that in its application it involves a contradiction of some other equally certain principle, which prescribes its limitation. The sufficiency. of the Holy Scriptures, cannot be shewn to have the least hostile relation to any truth of equal authority; the limitations by which it has been attempted to fetter its application, rest entirely on human policy. Various methods have been adopted to deprive Protestants of the free use and full benefit of this fundamental

principle of the Reformation, among which the following are the grounds upon which its application has been most plausibly resisted.

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§ 2. First, The sufficiency of the Scriptures Tradition has been impugned, on the ground that eccle- thoritative siastical tradition is, on certain points, a necessary guide. This is the plea of the Romanist, who contends for the equal authority of Apostolic tradition, as orally transmitted through successive ages, without interruption, by the Church of God; it being a matter of indifference, according to his argument, whether the doctrines originally given by Divine Revelation, are to be found in the written records, or have been thus delivered by word of mouth. Protestants professedly reject this notion with abhorrence, as subversive of the only solid basis of faith. It has been, indeed, the fruitful source of the grossest impositions ever practised upon the credulity of mankind. Under similar pretences, the Jewish doctors contended for the authority of the Mishna, as imbodying the oral law; making the commandments of God of no effect by their traditions: "In vain do they worship me," said our Saviour, "teach

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ing for doctrines the commandments of men." Yet, although in contending with the Papist, a due jealousy has been manifested for the exclusive claims of the Scriptures, as the only inspired authoritative standard of faith, human au

thorities have been on other occasions appealed to, as possessing a force little short of what the Church of Rome ascribes to tradition. It is in a spirit not very different from that of Popery, that the authority of antiquity, the authority of the fathers, the authority of the Church, are called in by Protestant controvertists, in support of opinions and practices, for which the sacred volume affords no sanction. There is, indeed, an obvious sense, in which these may be regarded as authorities, but it is a sense essentially different from that in which the term is employed to express the claims of Divine Revelation. There is the authority attaching to a human record, which consists simply in the internal marks of veracity; but the authority of the Divine records partakes of the authority of a law. With regard to the one, belief is reasonable, but it is at our option to believe; with regard to the latter, there is superinduced upon the reasonableness of believing, the highest obligation to the exercise of faith. When it is asserted, that the Scriptures are the only standard in matters of religious duty, it is not implied that they are the only possible source of information with regard to such subjects as are connected with our faith or our practice, but that the Divine testimony in the Scriptures is the only basis upon which belief can, as a religious duty, rest; the only

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