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of his divine mission, refers them to the Scriptures ; therefore, by the force of this direction, the whole body of the sacred Scriptures, without note or comment, is to be laid open promiscuously to the inspection of all the faithful, that they may come to such conclusions as the spirit shall suggest. The head that can produce such reasoning, is not fitted for theological discussion.
II. Then he argues, that the Bereans are commended for reading the Scriptures", and that consequently the Scriptures may be indiscriminately read by all the faithful. This consequence by no means flows from the commended practice. The Bereans are here described as more noble than those in Thessalonica, and as receiving the word of God with more readiness?. But because such persons are applauded for examining and comparing the doctrine of the apostles with the predictions of the prophets, does it follow that the ignorant and illiterate, the ploughman and the peasant, should be urged to read every part of the sacred Scripture indiscriminately, without note or comment ? and that the church, as a mother and guardian of the faithful, is not competent to introduce salutary restraints, and prudential precautions, for the purpose of inspiring christian humility, and a love of submission and order ? It is really not too severe a censure to say of the catechist, that in all his allegations
on this and other subjects, there appears neither a knowledge of Scripture, nor of Christian antiquity, nor any portion of natural or artificial logic.
III. Here he urges, that the practice of the Roman Catholic church is contrary to that of the primitive church, when the holy fathers exhorted the people to a diligent reading of the Scriptures. It is perfectly true that the holy fathers perpetually urged the faithful to an attentive perusal of the divine oracles : and the Roman Catholic church, at the present period, would, under similar circumstances, pursue the same method. The catechist appears not aware, that matters of discipline must ever vary with the shifting scenes and changeable occurrences of human life ; nor does he seem thoroughly acquainted with the circumstances, in which the holy fathers are perpetually urging their hearers to read the divine oracles. In those days of fervour, it was the continual practice of Christian bishops and preachers to explain the Scriptures at full length, in discourses styled homilies : not only Sundays, but days of devotion, and the penitential seasons of the year, were devoted to this salutary purpose. The same zealous pastor would often appear thrice in the day, in the performance of a function so useful and so salutary to religion. In this manner St. John Chrysostom explained the whole Scripture: the greatest portion of his immortal writings, which have been preserved for the instruction of mankind, consists of homilies of this description. Those of St. Augustine and St. Gregory, among the Latin fathers, possess their relative value and importance; and similar productions of other fathers might be mentioned with applause. To be prepared for these instructions, and afterwards to retain them, it was proper that the faithful should be assiduous in reading the Scriptures, and particularly the parts that had been expounded, in order to co-operate with the zeal and activity of the pastors. This is the real reason of that earnestness which St. John Chrysostom and other fathers perpetually employed, to animate the faithful to read the word of God; and this is in perfect unison with the spirit of the church at all times. To urge the faithful to study the divine oracles in sentiments of humility, docility, and submission, with such guides as the holy fathers, or any orthodox commentators; and to introduce salutary restraints, by which the unlearned and the unstable are prevented from wresting the Scriptures to their own perdition, are objects by no means incompatible, and are both directed by the maternal tenderness, and the sagacious prudence of the church.
IV. The corresponding number contains a singular piece of reasoning. The apostle' orders his epistle to be read to the brethren ; therefore, urges the catechist, it is the duty of all to read the Scriptures. The epistle was undoubtedly read, agreeably to St. Paul's desire, in the religious assemblies of the faithful, where the pastors were present to explain any difficulties; and this is what the Catholic church sanctions by her practice. But this does not authorize the indiscriminate reading of the Scripture, without note or comment, where each man constitutes himself the judge of the divine oracles, and the architect of his own faith ?
11 Thess, v. 27.
V. If the Jews were urged to make the divine law the subject of incessant meditation, it is perfectly right that Christians should pursue the same conduct with increased ardour ; but this is to be accomplished with exact order, and the rigid observance of discipline; with a profound humility of mind, and a strict submission to the order established by Christ; which was, constantly and invariably to hear his church.
VI. The catechist surpasses himself in boldness and insolence, when he arraigns the practice of the Catholic church, on what he deems a false ground of the obscurity of the Scriptures ; which, says he, are not so obscure in things necessary to salvation. St. Peter thought otherwise, when he represents the unlearned and unstable, wresting not only the epistles of St. Paul, but OTHER SCRIPTURE, to their perdition'. Besides, if the
1 Loc. cit.
Scriptures are so clear in doctrines necessary to salvation, by what unlucky combination of circumstances has it happened, that the days of “Reformation,” which are supposed to have ushered in light on a benighted world, have exhibited such a want of uniformity among the reforming doctors and their disciples ? Books without end might be written to expose the variations of Protestant churches, and Protestant divines : the learned and eloquent Bishop of Meaux published two ample volumes on the subject, and has favoured the world with such testimonies, as completely destroy the credit of Protestantism ?. Even on the subject of the most adorable Trinity, the knowledge of which is surely necessary to salvation, the most inconsistent, jarring, and-romantic systems, have been formed among Protestants; and numbers at this day, designating themselves Unitarians, openly and avowedly give up the mystery altogether. What is the source of this evil, but the indiscriminate liberty allowed by the principles of Protestantism, not only of reading the Scripture without the necessary precautions of Christian humility and orderly submission, but of judging of the contents of the sacred volume, without the aid of note, comment, or interpreter.
Let not the catechist then assert, that the prevention of heresy is a mere plea for the salutary
1 See Variations des Eglises Protestantes, par Bossuet, passim : edit. Paris, 1730.