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by a similar title in a previous volume of our learned author * we should have been led to expect the question placed exactly in the point of view which we think the most luminous, and consequently the most favourable to the cause of truth.
To shew the unscriptural character of the doctrines on which we differ from the Church of Rome, and even to prove from the ecclesiastical writers or fathers, that the nearer we go to the apostolical times the fewer traces we find of the additions which that Church has made to the original Christian creed; must at all times be useful, and especially, at the present period, when the Roman Catholics are using all the arts of sophistry to increase their party. But in controversies involving a number of subordinate questions, every one of which requires the most patient and candid attention, those who are conscious of the decided support of truth, should constantly labour to simplify the subject, and fix the public attention upon the parent error in which every false system originates. The only chance of our adversaries both in the religious and the political question about Popery, lies in the constant shifting of their ground. A mind must be powerful above the common standard which, after a certain time, does not get bewildered and fatigued by a multiplicity of arguments, and if, in that state of exhaustion, it happens to be struck with a plausible sophism, it is more than probable that it will make that sophism the hinge of the whole question. It should, therefore, be the object of every friend of Protestant religion and Protestant liberty in this country, to defeat the wiles of our adversaries by a method perfectly the reverse of theirs. We must at all times, and in all circumstances, draw the attention of the public to the true hinge of the controversy. Let the candid and unprejudiced portion of the public understand, in regard to the religious question, that all disputes about individual doctrines are secondary; and that, the supreme authority in matters of faith is the primary, and leading problem : let this be thoroughly and generally understood, and there is little danger of extended proselytism on the part of the Romanists.
Mr. Faber's work contains the usual convincing arguments against the pretended privilege of the Church of Rome to be the supreme judge in matters of faith. But the leading and paramount importance of this question, is not there set in its true light. Had the author strictly adhered to the course pointed out by his title, this could not have taken
• The Difficulties of Infidelity: a performance which, in our opinion, does not strictly keep to the poculiar course of reasoning which the title roquiros.
place. We have said that the true manner of showing the difficulties of Romanism would be to assume the organization of the Church of Rome, as a theory: for a theory indeed it is, invented to save one presumed difficulty in the Christian System. That difficulty is, how to preserve unity in the Church of Christ. The Pope declares himself the centre of the unity of faith, and if he could prove himself endowed with infallibility, the problem would be solved most completely. But here begin the real difficulties of Romanism. The proofs of the official infallibility of the Pope are so unsatisfactory, that the tenet has been almost universally relinquished. How then can a fallible Pope be the centre of an unity of infallible doctrine. Staggered by this first difficulty, the Romanists take various, and sometimes opposite courses to establish a living infallibility some where ; but the variety itself, and the uncertainty of their secondary theories, are å still more formidable difficulty of Romanism than the first. Every step in search of that infallibility out of the Scriptures, which is to preserve unity in their interpretation, is conjectural, and interpretative already. It is therefore impossible that with this weak and fallible premise, they can arrive at any certainty in the conclusion.
The argument in a circle, of which the Roman Catholics can never rid themselves, might indeed be rendered more obvious than usual, to some persons, by shewing that whilst the Church of Rome is trying to prove that she is the infallible interpreter of the Scriptures, she has no other proof of that commission and privilege but one which arises from her own interpretation.
Such difficulties of Romanism, set forth in a variety of strong lights, are, in our opinion, worth the most elaborate and learned work on the other disputed doctrines. We feel no doubt that the man who once becomes fully impressed with this argument, cannot by any chance be entrapped by the Roman Catholics.
It would be idle now to enter upon the old question of the right of private judgment, if that may be called a question among Protestants, which the very existence of their Churches proclaim. Mr. Faber appears to us to have touched upon the point in that state of mind which makes it shrink from the ultimate consequences of an undeniable truth. The right of private judgment is attended with evils, which to the dim and short sight of man may seem to be destructive of true religion. But so is the natural liberty of man, in regard to virtue. The evil consequences of man's free choice are daily and hourly experienced ; but we can no more eradicate those results from the moral, than disease and death from the physical world. Yet, as the former seem for a time to yield to power, there still exists a delusion, in regard to man's artificial means of preventing moral evil: and the experience of ages has not yet cured us of the fatal error, from which all schemes to counteract, what to us are the ultimate laws of moral nature, have arisen.
Popery itself is a direct consequence of the notion that since there exists a divine revelation, there must also be some infallible means of subjecting men's minds to that revelation, or at least of preventing their disturbing and baffling it. Were it not for the prevalence of this notion, there is not an honest man in Europe who would be a Romanist at this time of day. But the same feeling which makes many an honourable mind stand in support of a despotic throne, in the political world, secures the assistance of similar men to the spiritual despot of Rome. It is true that the more tangible interests of this life have prevented the fear of disturbance and division from banishing liberty from among mankind. But in spiritual concerns the operation of the principle, that dissent must be dislodged from even its remotest strong holds, has had a wider range. What the interests of the different nations have done in preventing every attempt at a universal monarchy, the interests of intellect and conscience wanted power to do, in regard to the universal spiritual monarchy of the Pope, till the time of the Reformation. But the encroaching error which the Reformation checked, was identical in nature, with that which has been opposed by the separate interests of nations. War, in respect of this life, and heresy and schism, with regard to the next, are horrible evils. Now an universal monarchy would undoubtedly prevent war; and an infallible Pope would put an end to heresy. Both theories are perfectly true: the only untoward circumstance in their promising and beautiful structure is, that an universal monarch must depend on the will of all his subjects for the unity of his kingdom, and that the spiritual King or Pope has not the means of persuading the whole Christian world that he is the Vicegerent of Christ. No human contrivance can give more solidity to the ultimate ground on which such systems must of necessity stand : and all attempts to prop it by force and compulsion are productive of more evil than that which the system is invented to obviate. : God has made the choice of every individual mind uncontrollable by man, in the adoption or rejection of doctrines. Pain and fear may draw certain sounds from the lips; but none, except God, is able to controul our will : even omnipotence controuls it without destroying it. This being the real state of things, it is perfectly unintelligible to us, how the right of private judgment in religious matters can be limited, without falling, as far as the limitation may extend, into the error and tyranny of the Church of Rome. Whether the Christian who carries this inalienable right to its full extent, by rejecting all guidance, does not contradict the spirit of the religion which he possesses, and wilfully expose himself to errors of the worst description, besides the actual sin of spiritual pride, of which this wild independence is the symptom; there can be no question among those who have studied the spirit of Christ's Gospel. But whatever be the duty of
hearing the Church" not only in points of private contention to which the text applies, but in the interpretation of the Scriptures; the original choice of a guide, where the Christian Churches differ, must depend essentially and ultimately on the judgment of the individual.
That the Church (that is, every aggregate of Christian Ministers established according to the spirit of the Gospel) has authority in matters of faith; we have subscribed to in our articles, and are most ready to maintain. The members of a Church are bound, in conscience, not to introduce doctrines, in opposition to the profession of faith which constitutes the external bond of its members. If, however, any one should be convinced in his mind that he cannot continue in communion with his Church without contradicting the Scriptures, he has å right to quit it: yet, he is answerable before God for the manner and grounds
of his separation, and much more for his active opposition. The opposition may be heresy, and the separation, schism ; but there is no infallible judge on earth, no rule, infallible in its application, to settle that awful question. Such is the order established by Providence, and we cannot alter it. We must act to the best of our knowledge on every extraordinary emergency, and to our conscience alone lies the last appeal in every thing relative to conduct. The most debased spiritual slave of Rome, submits to her decrees upon no steadier ground; for even her infallibility must be believed upon the strength of private judgment.
When we defend the right of private judgment, we must not be understood, however, as if we wished to recommend it as the best and most rational means of ascertaining the sense of the Scriptures. Every man has an unquestionable right, to choose his own physician, or to prescribe for himself: but, in contending for this inalienable right, no one in his senses would pretend that every man is a competent judge in the medical sciences; or that the best method of preserving health is for every one to be his own physician.
We cannot take leave of Mr. Faber without saying, that we are, on the whole, indebted to him for his answer. He has spared himself no pains in consulting the original writers of the ancient Church both Greek and Latin ; a labour which during the treacherous truce of the Romanist controversy, has been too much neglected among us.
A few lines will suffice to recommend the Romanist Conversations. The unaffected simplicity of the dialogue in this little book, and the minute examination of all the Romanist peculiarities, render it a desirable manual for those who want leisure for the perusal of more extensive and profound works. Mr. Huntingford deserves the thanks of every friend of the Church, not only for translating, but for publishing it at its trifling, and almost nominal price, in order to encourage its circulation,
Discourses, Doctrinal and Practical; delivered in Essex Street Chapel.
By Thomas BELSHAM, Pastor of the Congregation. 8vo. Pp. 486. 10s. 6d. London. Hunter. 1826.
If we were to keep strictly to the ostensible title of our Review, we ought, perhaps, to regard this volume as not properly falling within the scope of our researches; for to speak truth, we differ so widely from Mr. Belsham upon doctrinal points, that we look upon his opinions to be little better than anti-theological ; not only contrary to the judgment and determination of those whom we have always been in the habit of regarding as perfectly sound divines, but contrary to the plain and literal language of Scripture, to such a degree, as to alter the whole face of revelation ; interpreted, as Mr. Belsham would interpret the New Testament, we have before us quite a different book; having read it, and believed, we must, to meet Mr. Belsham's ideas, read it afresh, and learn to unbelieve, (if we may use such an expression,) all that we believed before. In short, there is no particular rudeness in saying this of Mr. Belsham's system of divinity, for he scruples not at all to discard such as ourselves, from his own class of theologians, in terms of reproof bordering upon contempt, and to reject certain doctrines which we hold most sacred, as not having a shadow of proof to support them.