« AnteriorContinuar »
form of government would be a monster in nature ; it would legalize discord, and introduce anarchy ; it would dissolve the bonds by which society is held together; it would bring into full operation the active passions of self-love, and confound right with strength. If this is the general picture of the effects resulting from the private interpretation of law, càn any reason be assigned why ecclesiastical government can be conducted on different principles of order from all civil institutions? or why the interpretation of the divine law should be left to the arbitrary caprice and wayward fancies of individuals ? Is there any warrant in the word of God for such an unnatural supposition? We have to give but a summary inspection to the sacred volume, to set this question at rest for ever. When God gave a form of government to the Jews, he by no means constituted each man a judge in his own cause, by leaving the decision of individual disputes to private judgment; but directed that all difficulties and differences should be referred to the priests and Levites'. On the same subject the prophet Malachi exclaims : The priests' lips should keep knowledge, and they shall seek the lawo at his mouth ; for he is the messenger of the Lord of Hosts.
If such was the conduct of God in the old law, to make his priests the supreme judges in all con
· Deuter. xvii. 8, et seq.
2 Mal. ii. 7.
troversies and dubious matters, can we suppose that he has altered this mode of proceeding in the law of
grace, and made each individual, assisted by the private spirit, the interpreter of the divine will, the expounder of the divine law, the architect of his own faith, the supreme judge in all matters relating to the most important concerns that can interest human nature ? Can such a singular dispensation be imputed to infinite wisdom, by a man who possesses a spark of religion ? The question is easily decided by documents contained in the new Scripture. It appears that our great Lord and charitable Redeemer his apostles a real and efficient power of instructing the faithful, and of deciding all differences : All power is given to me in heaven and in earth; GO, THEREFORE, TEACH ALL NATIONS. Those who neglect TO HEAR THE CHURCH, are to be treated as heathens and unbelievers?; and St. Paul, as we have often remarked, styles the church the PILLAR AND GROUND OF TRUTH'. The church is, therefore, the grand tribunal before which all spiritual concerns are to be brought and decided. Now among cases which may admit of discussion and controversy, are evidently to be ranked points of the divine law contained in the Scripture: and when such events actually take place, why should the form of government, devised by our Redeemer, give way to the pretended right of private judgment ? St. Paul, in a well-known passage, which we have before cited, clearly establishes the government of the pastors of the church, in terms which utterly destroy this supposed right; for he alleges, that the various pastors and guides, whom he enumerates, are appointed, THAT WE BE NO MORE CHILDREN, TOSSED ABOUT WITH EVERY WIND OF DOCTRINE". St. Peter, in terms not to be misconstrued, declares that NO PROPHECY OF, SCRIPTURE IS OF PRIVATE INTERPRETATION?. After such clear and incontrovertible testimonies, how is it possible, with any colour of reason, to set up the right of private interpretation? The purpose which the authors of this system have in view, in appealing from the Scripture as explained by the Catholic church, to the Scripture as explained by themselves, is so manifestly and so grossly visible, as not to deceive the plainest and most vulgar capacity:
· Matt. xxviii, 18, 19.
2 Ibid. xviii. 17.
:1 Tim. iii, 15.
But perhaps it may be alleged, that all these declarations of Scripture are not to be taken in the most rigorous meaning; and that in consequence of the superior light which was promised to the faithful in the new law, the apostles and their immediate successors might have left the supposed right of private judgment inviolate. Let this difficulty be decided by the holy Scripture, to which our opponents are so fond of appealing, in opposition to all authority. When
the celebrated dispute took place between the converted Jews and Gentiles, concerning the ceremonies of the old law, the controversy was decided, not by the judgment of private individuals, nor by any number of the parties concerned; the business was referred to the council of the apostles at Jerusalem, and their decision was pronounced and received as an oracle of the Holy Ghost : It seemed good to the Holy Ghost and to us'. In the same authoritative manner every dispute, which took place in subsequent periods of the church, was brought to a final close by the voice of general councils; and all who refused submission to their dogmatical decrees, were treated as heretics, who preferred their own judgment to that of the church. Thus were the Arians, the Macedonians, the Nestorians, and the Eutychians, condemned in the first four general councils ; and any appeal from the Scripture as understood and explained by the fathers of these councils, to the Scripture as interpreted by individuals, particularly by the parties concerned, has always been regarded as a wretched and pitiful subterfuge, to set aside that authority which Christ has left in his church. But it is time to listen to the oracular wisdom of the cathechist on the subject, and to investigate his learned statements. I. In the first place he says, that Catholics act
! Acts xv. 28.
in opposition to the command of Christ, who says, search the Scriptures'. It were to be wished, that all who produce a text from the sacred Scripture to establish any point, would first consider the whole context of the passage which they think proper to cite. This precaution would dissipate the greatest portion of flimsy arguments drawn from the sacred writings. The text produced by the catechist, contains not a shadow of command to lay the Scriptures indiscriminately before the faithful. Our Redeemer is there establishing against the Jews the reality of his mission, and his consubstantiality with his heavenly Father; and he asserts that those evidences, to which they appealed, bear witness to his character. He says? : You sent unto John, and he bare witness unto the truth. In the same way he adds : You search the Scriptures ; for in them ye think ye have eternal life ; and they are they which testify of mes. This version and interpretation, which accord with the context, as well as with the Greek original, will be found to contain no command, but only a reference to the
practice which the Jews were pursuing.
Besides, were we to grant that a command is conveyed in the words of Christ, such a concession would by no means warrant the inference of the catechist ; for his argument would run thus : Christ, in discussing with the Jews the subject
1 John v. 39.
2 Ibid. 33.
3 Ibid. 39.