« AnkstesnisTęsti »
but divided, individual reason, private judgment, must decide for each one as well as it can. We shall not smile at the Bishop's simplicity, in supposing that this reservation in favor of private judgment amounts to any thing. All Catholics allow full scope to private judgment, reverently exercised, on all matters not decided by the Church; and this is all the Bishop himself asserts or implies. He admits the authority of the Church, and of course must deny the authority of private judgment in all matters coming within the jurisdiction of that authority ; for it is absurd to contend for the right of private judgment in regard to those matters covered by the ecclesiastical authority. The two authorities may, indeed, coexist, but not in regard to the same matters ; for one is the negation of the other. But the Church, it is conceded, hath authority in controversies of faith. Art. XX. Consequently, in matters of faith private judgment has not authority. Whatever authority, then, it may have, it can have none to justify the Reformers in those matters they stand accused of, for those are really, directly or indirectly, matters of faith ; since the authority of the Church itself, which they resisted, is an article of faith, professed in the creed, “I believe the Holy Catholic Church,” — not, I believe in it, that is, that there is a Holy Catholic Church, but that I believe it, what it teaches, and observe what it commands.
But the Bishop says, where the Church is unanimous, its authority is complete and final; where it is divided, it is not authoritative, and private judgment is. Is it possible for the Church to be divided? The Church is an authoritative body, as already proved, and as the Bishop contends earnestly (pp. 26, 27).' But can authority be divided against itself 'The Church either decides or it does not. In any matter decided, it cannot be said to be divided; for the decision itself is proof to the contrary. Matters not decided are not decided, and are not articles of faith. The Church cannot be said to be divided about these, for she has taken no action on them. Individuals may be divided about them, but not the Church. Moreover, if the Church could be divided on any matter, it would be a kingdom divided against itself, and therefore must fall; but we have the promise of Him who cannot lie, that it shall not fall
, for it is built on a rock, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
Furthermore, when the Church has decided, those, be they few or be they many, who refuse to submit, are ipso facto schismatics, out of the communion of the Church, and no part VOL. II. NO. I.
of it. The dissent of these, therefore, makes nothing against the unanimity of the Church. Here, we apprehend, is the great difficulty of our Protestant Bishop. When he talks of divisions in the Church, we suspect he has reference to divisions, not in the Church, but out of it. Bishop as he is, he does not appear to have any clear notions of ecclesiastical authority. He admits the authority of the Church in one breath, and denies it in the next, and then apparently both admits and denies it in the same breath. We, however, hold him to the Thirty-nine Articles, which declare, “ The Church hath authority in controversies of faith.” Then he must admit that there is somewhere in the Church an authority competent to decide such controversies. Then he must also admit, that, when that authority has decided, they who refuse to submit to the decision are rebels, and by their rebellion placed out of the Church. In demanding unanimity as essential to complete the authority of the Church, does he demand the unanimous assent of all, both the Church condemning and the adherents of the doctrine condemned ? The Council of Nice condemned the Arians, but certainly not with the consent of the Arians. Was it after that condemnation lawful for a member of the Church to question its justice, and to attempt to decide for himself, by his private judgment, the subject matter of the original controversy, on the ground, that the whole body of professed Christians, or of professed Christian pastors, had not been unanimous in condemning Arianism? If so, where was the authority of the Church in controversies of faith? The adherents of the heretical doctrine, of course, cannot be unanimous in condemning it; and if their assent to its condemnation must be obtained, before the condemnation can be pronounced by a competent authority, we should like to be informed how any doctrine can ever be condemned as heretical !
The Church either has authority to condemn doctrines as heretical, or it has not. If not, then it is idle to talk of her authority in controversies of faith. She has no authority, and the whole question is left to private judgment; and each individual, from the best evidences in the case, is free to form his own opinions, and to abide by them, whether agreeing with the great body of believers or not. The fathers, and decisions of councils, &c., may have great weight with him, and be, in fact, the data from which he reasons, but they cannot bind him. He is free to read the Bible for himself, and form his own creed. Is the Bishop prepared to admit this conclusion? Of course not, for he contends that the Church has authority in controversies of faith, holds dissent to be a sin, and censures severely the German and Swiss Reformers for asserting the dangerous principle which leads to it. Speaking of these last, he says:
“Provoked and excited by the usurpations of the Roman priesthood, they did not pause to separate the use from the abuse, — the usurpation, from the real judicial authority committed to the pastors of the Church by Christ himself. Hence, they overthrew the whole system of ecclesiastical government; assumed the dangerous principle, that the great Head of the Church had not appointed any specific kind of government for it, and that any form at all was equally acceptable in his sight, so that the Scriptures held their proper rank as the rule of faith for his people. The sad result of this error, my beloved brethren, is the wretched state of strife and dissension to which we have already alluded. Heresy in its deadliest form has swept through the Lutheran Churches and the universities of Germany. The very pulpit of Calvin, at Geneva, has been long occupied by men who preach the doctrine for which Calvin condemned Servetus to the stake; and still the same disorganizing principle runs throughout the land, that the government of Christ's Church is a thing of indifference, but that, as a matter of high expediency, if there be any governinent at all, the more modern, the better.” — pp. 26, 27.
This proves plainly that the Bishop cannot adopt the conclusion, that every man is free to form his own creed, irrespectively of the decision of the Church ; for it plainly asserts that Christ committed judicial authority, in matters of faith, to the pastors of the Church, and established a government for the Church, and even a specific kind of government. Of course, then, he must hold that all are bound, on pain of schism, to submit to that government.
If we take the other alternative, and say that the Church hath authority to condemn doctrines as heretical, then the question is not, whether all who profess to belong to the Church consent to the condemnation, but whether the condemnation has been really pronounced by the government of the Church. If the government has pronounced the condemnation, it is unquestionably authoritative, and all who refuse to consent are by that fact rebels, and to be condemned as schismatics. In determining, then, on what matters the Church is agreed, we have not to inquire on what matters all who bear the Christian name are agreed; but simply, what matters the Church has decided. The decision is, ipso facto, proof of unanimity; for whoso refuses to submit to it is, ipso facto, a schismatic, and out of the Church, as says our blessed Saviour : “If he refuse to hear the Church, let him be to you as a heathen or as a 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