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The Observer accuses us of reasoning in a vicious circle, because we assert that the Apostolic ministry is the only competent witness to the fact of revelation, and yet appeal to the Scriptures in proof of the fact that a revelation has been made, and to determine the commission of the ministry, We confess we can detect no vicious circle in this. The fact that a revelation has been made was evidenced to those who lived in the age in which it was made by miracles, which accredited those by whom it was made, as we showed in our article. We appeal to the Scriptures, in the first instance, not to ascertain what this revelation is, but as a simple historical record of the miracles and other facts, which prove that a revelation has been made, or that God has really spoken to man. It is perfectly legitimate to say, the Apostolic ministry is the only witness competent to say what it is God has or has not spoken, and yet appeal to the Scriptures as historical doctrines to prove that he has spoken. Here is no vicious circle.
Nor do we reason in a vicious circle when we assume the Apostolic ministry to be the only witness to the fact of revelation, and yet adduce the Scriptures as historical documents in proof of the commission of the ministry. Because we do not first assume the authority of the ministry as the only proof of the Scriptures as historical documents, and then adduce the Scriptures in proof of the commission which authorizes it to testify to that authenticity. We take the Scriptures, already proved to be authentic historical documents, so far forth as historical in their character, at least, so far forth as we have occasion to use them in the argument, to prove one simple historical fact, namely, the commission which Jesus Christ gave to his Apostles ; and then we take the ministry, proved, through the commission of the Apostles, to be Apostolic, as the witness to the fact and the expounder of revelation, whether contained in the Scriptures or deposited elsewhere. Here is no vicious circle, and we say so on the authority of the Observer itself. We accused the advocates of private illumination with reasoning in a vicious circle, when they take the witness to prove the Scriptures, and then the Scriptures to prove the witness. Not at all, says the Observer : For while we take the Scriptures to prove the witness, we do not take the witness to prove the truth of the Scriptures, but their sense. The establishment of the fact of their existence, as the record of God's revealed will, is antecedent to their use to prove the witness, and independent of his testimony.” This, though not a complete reply to
us, - because, as a matter of fact, the establishment of the existence of the Scriptures as the record of God's revealed will is not antecedent to their use to prove the witness, since the fact that they are the record of the revealed will of God in its purity and integrity is one of the facts to which the witness is to testify, - is nevertheless a valid distinction, and a complete refutation of the Observer's charge against us. For, while we take the Scriptures as historical documents, to prove the commission of the Apostolic ministry, we do not take the Apostolic ministry to prove that the Scriptures are authentic historical documents, but to prove what is or is not the word which Almighty God has spoken. The establishment of the fact of their existence as authentic historical documents is antecedent
their use to prove the commission of the Apostolic ministry, and independent of its testimony. The blunder of the Observer comes from confounding the fact of the existence of the Scriptures as authentic historical documents with the fact of their authority as a record of revelation.
The Observer, however, is not to be so easily balked of the pleasure" of refuting us.
“We want no easier task than to establish false religions on the principle here laid down. There would be no difficulty to get the appointment of a body of pastors and teachers, and then to find witnesses to testify to the fact of the appointment. And then, if this body of teachers were allowed to say that such and such books contained the record of a revelation from God, we could not only have as many false teachers as 'we wanted, but a correspondent number of spurious Bibles. If the lying 'witness false revelation, the untrue revelation would of course vouch for the appointment of the witness. It is easy enough, then, to bring historical testimony to the appointment of a witness; but the authority of the witness — is it from heaven, or of men? If you say, of men, then why believe the testimony? if from heaven, then it is a revealed fact, and on your principles cannot be known but by the testimony of the witness. Bishop Sherlock, in his day, fell in with just such reasoners as Mr. Brownson, and pushed them around the circle after this manner: • The Scriptures are very intelligent to honest and diligent readers, in all things necessary to salvation ; and if they be not, I desire to know how we shall find out the Church; for certainly the Church has no charter but what is in the Scriptures; and then, if we must believe the Church before we can believe or understand the Scriptures, we must believe the Church before we can possibly know whether there be a church or not ! If we prove the Church by the Scriptures, we must believe and understand the Scriptures before we can know the Church. If we believe and understand the Scriptures upon the authority and interpretation of the Church, considered as a church, then we must know the Church before the Scriptures. The Scripture cannot be known without the Church, nor the Church without the Scripture, and yet one of them must be known first ; yet neither of them can be known first, according to these principles; which is such an absurdity, as all the art of the world can never palliate.'
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“That Mr. Brownson may have no ground to say he is treated unfairly in this matter, we give him leave to hang upon just which horn of the dilemma he may choose ; but as for hanging upon both, we insist that he shall do no such thing.” — pp. 138, 139.
With the Observer's permission, we will, at present, hang on neither horn. To the extract from Bishop Sherlock we reply, that the Scriptures, as authentic historical documents, are logically, though not chronologically, in our argument, before the Church as a divinely commissioned body ; but the Church, as the divinely commissioned witness and expounder of the word of God, is both logically and chronologically before the Scriptures, for, as a matter of fact, the Church is older than the Scriptures.
The divine authority of the commission is inferred from the fact that it was given by Jesus Christ, proved, by the miracles he performed, to speak by divine authority. The fact that he wrought miracles, and the fact that he gave the commission, are both historical facts, and provable by historical testimony, without our being obliged to appeal to the authority of the witness.
But the authority of the commission, if of God, is a revealed fact. If revealed, it can be proved only by the authority of the Apostolic ministry, because that is the only witness we acknowledge to the fact of revelation. Then we must assume the divine authority of the commission as the condition of
proving it, which is absurd ; or we must admit some other witness than the Apostolic ministry, and then we contradict ourselves, and our whole reasoning falls to the ground. This objection was urged against us by the Christian World, one of the organs of the Unitarians. The reply is simple and easy. The Apostolic ministry is nothing but the continuation of Christ's own ministry while he was on the earth; and the Church teaching, which we have called the Apostolic ministry, was, while he was on earth, in him. But in him its authority to teach is not established by the commission to the Apostles, but by the miracles he wrought. We take the authority of the Church teaching in him while he was on earth, proved by miracles to be of
God, to establish the divine authority of the commission to the Apostles. Consequently, we neither deny the Apostolic ministry to be the only witness, nor do we fall into the absurdity of assuming the divine authority of the witness as the condition of proving its divine authority. Will the Observer tell us on which horn of his imagined dilemma we now hang?
The commission to the Apostles created no new ministry, but simply provided for the continuance, unto the consummation of the world, of the visible ministry our blessed Saviour had himself exercised while on the earth.
Father hath sent me, so send I you."
" When he was on earth the witness was visible in him, now it is visible in the body of the pastors and teachers of the Roman Catholic Church, but, though visible under other conditions, it is one and the same; “ For, behold,” says our blessed Saviour, “I am with you all days unto the consummation of the world.” He is the witness, and testifies through them. Does the Observer ask a better witness ? If it does, it must find him, for we never pledged ourselves to produce a better.
One point more we notice, and then take our leave of this Episcopal Observer, till we hear from him again. Our readers will recollect the argument we used to identify the Ecclesia docens, or Church teaching, with the Roman Catholic ministry.
“ 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 horn of the dilemma, the Greek Church is false, and its min. istry not the apostolic ministry which inherits the promises. The same reasoning will apply with equal force to any 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."
Upon this the Episcopal Observer remarks :
“ It is one of the easiest things in the world to make out a false conclusion, if one can be allowed to slip a false premise into the process of induction. There are so many violations of the rules of logic in the above paragraph, that the reader would hardly have patience to follow us in their exposure. Precisely the same rea
VOL. II. NO, III.
- p. 141.
soning, in the same words, with only a slight interchange of terms, will best show its absurdity.
« • It is the ministry of the Greek Church. It can be no other. It cannot be the Roman Catholic ministry. The Roman Catholic Church was formerly in communion with the Greek Church, and made one corporation with it. The Greek Church was then the true church, Ecclesia docens, or it was not. If not, the Church of Rome is false, in consequence of having communed with a false church. If it was, the Church of Rome is false, because it separated from it. So, take either horn of the dilemma, the Church of Rome is false, and its ministry not the Apostolic ministry which inherits the promises,' &c.”
Now, will it be credited that we anticipated this retort and replied to it? Yet such is the fact. Here is what we said :
“ 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 had 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 Church 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."
Yet the Observer nowhere notices the fact that we had thus replied in advance, nor even that we were aware of the objection. It has not noticed these replies, express to its objection, and yet it claims to have refuted us ! Yes, it has refuted us,