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publican.” This must be admitted, if we admit the Church to be authoritative at all.
But the Reformers are accused of schism, only for rejecting the authority of the Church on those matters it had decided, and on which its unanimity is to be presumed. Since, then, the authority of the Church, in all matters on which it is agreed, is conceded to be ultimate, the right of private judgment on other matters cannot be pleaded in justification of the Reformers. Consequently, the reservation in favor of private judgment cannot free them from the charge of schism.
It is true, the Bishop himself would seem to extend the right of private judgment beyond the limits we have assigned it, and give it, in some sense, a coördinate jurisdiction with that of the Church, and of the same matters. To this end he quotes several passages from the Sacred Scriptures. But to assume the authority of both private judgment and the Church on the same matters is, as we have said, absurd. One authority necessarily excludes the other. If it is private judgment, then not the Church; if the Church, then not private judgment. If it is private judgment, private judgment can override the decision of the Church, and then the authority of the Church is null; if it is the Church, then the Church can override private judgment, and the authority of private judgment is null. Obviously, then, the two authorities cannot have coördinate jurisdiction of the same matters. If the two authorities be admitted, it must be in relation to different matters.
The passages quoted from the Holy Scriptures are not to the Bishop's purpose. They undoubtedly recognize man as a reasonable being, and call upon him to exercise his reason; but not in relation to those questions which are subjected to authority. Almighty God calls upon us to reason, we admit, - to exercise our private judgment, we cheerfully concede; but not in regard to the intrinsic truth of the mysteries of faith, nor in regard to the genuine sense of the word of God; but solely in regard to the motives of credibility. He calls upon us to reason on the question, 1. Whether his providences do not harmonize with our natural sense of justice ; 2. Whether we have not sufficient motives for believing his word, that is, to believe him when he speaks, on his own veracity ; 3. Whether we can justify to ourselves our refusal to trust his veracity, and to obey his commands ; 4. Whether the witness to his word is not altogether credible ; and 5. Whether the interpreter whose interpretations we are commanded to take has not received ample authority to interpret the word of God. All these are questions addressed to reason, and come within the jurisdiction of private judgment; for otherwise our faith would be blind and irrational, even if true, and faith without reason is not what God demands of us. But the admission of the right of private judgment on these questions is one thing, — the admission of the right of private judgment in regard to the intrinsic truth of the mysteries of faith is another and a very different thing. The mysteries are inevident to reason, because they transcend it, and are taken, not on the authority of reason apprehending their intrinsic truth, — for, if they were, they would be matters of science, and not of faith, — but on the simple veracity of God revealing them; and the fact that God has revealed them is not taken on their intrinsic reasonableness, or any perception of their intrinsic reasonableness, but on the authority of the witness for God which he himself hath appointed.
We accept private judgment, as well as the Bishop, and give full scope to individual reason, but only within its legitimate province. We reconcile reason and authority by ascertaining the province of reason, and confining it within its legitimate province. Questions of reason are to be decided by reason, but questions of faith are to be decided by authority ; for all faith rests on authority, and would not be faith if it did not. The Bishop does not seem to have been aware of this fact; for he does not seem to have ever clearly distinguished in his own mind, on the one hand, between faith and science, and, on the other, between faith and opinion.
The Bishop seems to fancy that he escapes our conclusion, that the right of private judgment does not relieve the Reformers from the charge of schism, on the ground, that the Church may be divided on matters of faith. If we understand him, he holds that on some articles of faith the Church is unanimous, but on others it is divided. In regard to all those articles on which it is divided, the exercise of private judgment is our right. That the Church is agreed on some questions, and divided on others, we concede ; but that the questions on which it is divided are matters of faith we deny. His error arises from not making this distinction. The Church cannot be divided on articles of faith; for the Bishop himself contends, as well as we, for the unity of the faith. Faith is and must be one, and they who embrace not the one faith are no part of the Church ; for the Bishop himself defines the Church to be composed of all who embrace the orthodox faith, and of course of no others. The questions on which the Church is divided, or can be divided, without breaking its unity, must be simply
questions of science or of opinion, and not questions of faith. 'I'he freedom of private judgment in relation to all these questions the Church fully recognizes.
But the Bishop would seem (p. 3) to rest his defence on the distinction between fundamentals and non-fundamentals. The Church, he would probably say, cannot be divided on fundamentals, but it may be divided on non-fundamentals. This is the usual resort of Protestants. But to this we reply : 1. The non-fundamentals are either matters of faith or they
If not, they are out of the question ; for the question concerns matters of faith only. If they are matters of faith, we ask on what authority are they declared to be non-fundamental? Not on the authority of reason, for the question is not a question of reason. On the authority of the Sacred Scriptures ? But there is no passage of the Sacred Scriptures which declares or implies that a certain portion of the faith is not fundamental. On the authority of the Church? But the Protestant cannot admit the authority of the Church without condemning himself, for he resists that authority; and moreover, the Church never regards any portion of the faith as non-fundamental. What is not fundamental she does never propose as an article of faith, for she always teaches that it is equally necessary to believe all that she teaches.
There is, then, no authority for making the distinction between fundamental and non-fundamental.
2. The matters assumed to be non-fundamental are either matters divinely revealed or not. If not, they are not articles of faith in any sense ; for nothing can be made an article of faith, except what is divinely revealed. If divinely revealed, they cannot be non-fundamental; for it is essential that all which God reveals should be believed. It is repugnant to reason to suppose that God would reveal to us, supernaturally, what might be rejected without detriment to salvation. Moreover, he who rejects any portion of God's word makes God a liar, because he refuses to rely on the veracity of God, which is as good authority for believing one article as another.
3. Admitting that some articles are fundamental and others non-fundamental, still the Bishop has no rule for distinguishing the one from the other. Private reason cannot, as we have seen ; because what articles of supernatural faith are fundamental, and what not, is not a question of reason, but itself a question of faith, and therefore must rest on supernatural authority. Not the Sacred Scriptures ; because, in nearly all cases, the question turns on what the Scriptures do really teach, or what is the faith they enjoin.
Will the Bishop say, that fundamentals are those articles in which all Christians agree, and non-fundamentals are those about which they dispute ? Understanding by Christians all who bear the name, we ask him what these fundamental doctrines are, in which they all agree? We are ignorant of all such doctrines, and think he will find it difficult to adduce a single doctrine the contrary of which has not been maintained by some portion of the Christian world. Will he, abandoning this ground, say, fundamentals are only those doctrines which are clearly and expressly taught in the Sacred Scriptures ? Be it
The Scriptures, unquestionably, make faith in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, indispensable to salvation ; but is it equally express as to what is to be believed concerning Jesus Christ? Certainly not. For nothing can be said to be expressly taught in the Scriptures, about which men, equally able, learned, honest, and sincere, who take them for their rule of faith, continue to dispute. Has it ever been settled from the Bible alone, interpreted by private reason, whether we are to believe the Son of God is consubstantial to the Father, as teaches the Nicene Creed; or created out of nothing, as the Arians contended? Whether he is the second person in the ever-adorable Trinity ; or merely the son of Joseph and Mary, as allege our modern Unitarians? Whether he saves the world as a grand expiatory sacrifice, dying to redeem men from the curse of the law, and raising them to newness of life by the communication of himself; or merely as a teacher of wholesome truths and an exemplar of a holy life? Are not these, and many more like them, fundamental questions? Can they be settled by an appeal to the Scriptures alone? If so, why have they not been? Why are not all sincere and honest Protestants, whose rule is the sufficiency of the Scriptures, agreed respecting them? If all that is fundamental is expressly taught in the Scriptures, why have not our Protestant brethren, long before this, hit upon certain articles of faith which they can all adopt ? At least, why have we not seen, after three hundred years of experiment, some approximation to unanimity among them ? Yet we see nothing of all this. They divide and subdivide more and more ; and is at the present moment they appear less widely separated, and to fight one another less fiercely than formerly, it is because they have fallen into indifference, and are gradually coming to believe that one creed or one sect is about as good as another, and perhaps none nor all are worth troubling one's head about. No, this ground is untenable. Strike from the creeds of our Protestant sects all
that we may
articles concerning which there is a difference of belief, and take the residuum, as we must, as the sum of what is clearly taught in the Scriptures, and we should have a faith which would be unanimously, by all parties, declared altogether insufficient, — too meagre to satisfy even Socinians.
It seems to us, on attentively reading Bishop Hopkins's Lectures, that the singular confusion which runs through them arises from his never having clearly conceived of the Church of Christ as an authoritative body. The Ecclesia docens et gubernans appears to have remained to him in profound obscurity, or to have been confounded in his mind with the Ecclesia credens. He believes Jesus Christ founded a Church, but, one is tempted to think, merely a Church of believers. He does not appear to be fully aware, at least theoretically, that our blessed Lord has set in this Church of believers some to be apostles, and some prophets, and others evangelists, and others pastors and teachers, for the perfection of the saints, for the work of the ministry, unto the edification of the body of Christ; till we all meet in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the age of the fulness of Christ, not now be children, tossed to and fro, and carried about by every wind of doctrine, in the wickedness of men, in craftiness by which they lie in wait to deceive,” (Eph. iv. 11 – 14,) and that to these, who constitute the ministry of the Church, is given authority to teach and to rule the Church. It is true, he holds Episcopacy to be of divine appointment ; but he holds it to be necessary, not to the being of the Church, but simply to its order. Hence, he really believes it possible to retain the unity of the Church under a diversity of ecclesiastical governments. Here, it seems to us, is his primal error. Our blessed Lord, in constituting his Church, did constitute an authoritative ministry, and made communion with that ministry the indispensable condition of communion with his Church. therefore, and teach all nations ; baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost; teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you; and behold, I am with you all days, even unto the consummation of the world.” (Matt. xxviii. 19, 20.)
(Matt. xxviii. 19, 20.) Here was instituted the Ecclesia docens ; here was instituted a perpetual ministry, with authority to teach ; and whoso rejecteth this authority rejecteth Christ himself. Now, if this ministry has authority to teach, then all are bound to believe what it teaches ; for there is no authority to teach, where there is no obligation to believe.
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