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precautions in question, without any substantial foundation ; since the state of the Protestant world is a practičal proof of the solidity of the Catholic discipline. Let him cease to exclaim, that we might as well forbid the use of meat and drink, for fear of abuse ; for if he asks his medical adviser whether, in any case, the natural liberty of mankind should be restrained in the use of meat and drink, he will unquestionably receive for answer, that innumerable instances occur where such restraint becomes necessary for the preservation of human life, and for the maintenance of that station, which has been assigned to each person by the orders of Providence. A similar mode of reasoning fully justifies the Catholic church in all the prudential precautions which duty has impelled her to adopt, in preventing a general and indiscriminate license of reading the -sacred Scripture, without note, comment, or exposition.
Why do you believe that the books commonly printed, and
bound up with the Bible, called Apocrypha, are not canonical Scripture ?
1. Because the true oracles of the Old Testament were delivered
to the Jewish church, Rom. iii. 2, and these books were not
delivered as such. 2. These Apocrypha were not written by men inspired, as all
canonical Scripture must be. 2 Tim. iii. 16. 3. As the Jewish church knew of no other canonical Books of
the Old Testament, but what the Protestant churches own; so the primitive church received no other from the Jews but
these. 4. Some of the authors of the books called Apocrypha make
excuses for themselves, and beg the reader's pardon for their mistakes; which is not the language of the Holy Ghost. See 2 Maccab. xv. 38: see also the Prologue to Jesus the Son
of Sirach, 5. In the ancient account of canonical books, particularly that
of the Council of Laodicea, in the year 364, these Apocry
pha are left out. 6. Whereas it is pretended that these Apocrypha were read in
the primitive church, we grant it; but it was for the instruction of men's morals: they did not resolve their faith into
them; no more do we. 7. Some learned men of the church of Rome do not believe
them to be canonical.
HERE we have a most important subject of discussion, in finding a true and unequivocal rule
by which genuine Scripture, containing the word of God, and the real expression of the divine will, may be distinguished from what is spurious, and barely human. Unless such a rule can be found, how are we to proceed ? how are we to ascertain the current coin of the kingdom, without clear and unerring marks, by which we are to discern what possesses
real value from what is base? In human concerns, we are not satisfied to be abandoned to hazard, to be guided by the opinions of individuals, however respectable and eminent, when the affair is of the utmost moment, when the consequences are irreparable, and when opinions are discordant.
If a question should arise, whether a point which deeply interests all the members of a political community, be or be not a law of the land, the course to be pursued is extremely clear. When neither the learned in the law, nor the appointed judges and guardians of right, can come
any certain conclusion, recourse must be had to the supreme power of the state; and nothing can set the question at rest, but a legislative enactment, or an authoritative declaration. If such a résource is offered to us in deciding human controversies, are we to be left destitute in a busivess of all others the most important, when we are inquiring, which are those books that convey the will of the Almighty, as communicated to man? If temporal sovereigns make known their
orders to their subjects, without danger of deception, by, the appointment of a regular series of subordinate officers, is the will of the Almighty to be left in a state of obscurity, without any mark, by which a book, containing the positive divine law, can be distinguished from a spurious and fabricated production. This cannot be; it is not consistent with the general analogy of government, whether ecclesiastical or civil ; it is opposed to the usual ways of Providence; it is contrary to the positive declarations of our Redeemer, to which we have so often referred, and by which he stands pledged to protect his church from all error, and to lead her into all truth. For if there existed no mode of ascertaining the authenticity and inspiration of the sacred Scriptures, or if it could be proved that the Catholic church has proposed to the faithful a book, or any part of a book, as true Scripture, which could be shewn evidently not to be the word of God, that would amount to a substantial demonstration that she has led the faithful into error and deception. But as long as we can rely on the words of our Redeemer, that event can never take place : eternal truth is incapable of any deceit; the declarations of God cannot be falsified. We are therefore constrained, in this as in all other discussions relating to faith, to listen to the voice that descends from above; to obey that authority which Christ himself established. There is no other method under the sun, of bringing religious disputes to a close, or determining what is or what is not Scripture, but by listening to the voice of that church, founded by our Redeemer; which we have proved to be the church in communion with the See of Rome. This consideration had such a weight on the mind of the great St. Augustine, that he openly declares, that he would not believe the gospel, were he not induced to do it by the AUTHORITY OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH ?.
The catechist and the Protestant of every description, by depriving himself of this guide, which led St. Augustine to believe the gospel, and consequently to admit every part of the canonical Scriptures, has thrown away the only means by which the faithful can be enabled, not only to distinguish the apocryphal from the sacred writings, but to ascertain the authenticity and inspiration of any single part. In fact, what possible rule can the Protestant produce, by which he can, with any certainty, pronounce that any book whatever contains the written word of God? The bible itself, and none of the books can depose in their own favour: all laws, all precepts, all external injunctions, must emanate from some authority : the resource of the private spirit is too ridiculous to be named: the authority and tradition of the Catholic church are mentioned
Epist. contra Fund. loc. cit.