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necessarily censorious, visionary, and intolerant. There would seem to be no place either in their feelings or their creed for that modesty and diffidence so frequently discovered even by inspired men. With a degree of information scarcely exceeding the alphabet of divine knowledge, and with a degree of moral integrity scarcely rising to that sense of honour which men who make no pretensions to sanctity sometimes respect, they claim to be the temples of the Lord, the depositories of his most precious truths, and the subjects of his most divine impressions. But that mistakes of this kind should arise, partly as matter of self-deception, and partly as a result of the vanity and presumption more or less inherent in man, is in no way perplexing. And were the evil much more common than it is, we should still be constrained to remember that it arises from some spirit of inquiry and reflection--from some habit of responsible feeling and self-investigation, and should accordingly greatly prefer these consequences to those which must be the lot of the men who surrender their faculties to be moulded by a priesthood. In the present state of human nature, no order of men can be intrusted with such power and be innocent. And while nothing less than a capacity to resist allurement to evil, strong as that possessed by an angel of God, could prevent a priesthood so confided in from becoming a treacherous guide to their votaries, there is every thing in the cautions of Holy Writ, and every thing in the laws of the human mind and of human
intercourse, to render the abuses of the right of private judgment, adverted to, much less obvious than its uses. It is with this gift as with every other conferred by the same hand, evil has mixed itself with good ; but while some convert the cup to poison, others imbibe its nourishment and live.
Believing this, we have no doubt as to the origin of the creed which teaches men to denounce this tenet as having no other tendency than to engraft presumption upon ignorance. Such a view of this doctrine cannot be sincerely promulgated, except where the grossest ignorance is prevalent, or where the moral sensibilities have been deeply injured by habits of disingenuousness.
The only passage in the New Testament possessing any plausibleness as opposed to this article, is in the 23d chapter of Matthew, where the Redeemer, teaching the multitude, said, “ The Scribes and Pharisees sit in Moses' seatall therefore, whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe, and do; but do not after their works, for they say and do not.” But let it be remembered that this is said of the accredited teachers of the Jewish Church, and not of those who are raised to the same office under the present dispensation. And not to dwell on that circumstance, let the entire chapter commencing with this passage be attended to, and it will be found to contain a notice of many things taught by these teachers, partly as commentaries on the inspired law, and partly as sacred traditions, which are nevertheless denounced by the
Redeemer as the devices of men, as things which constitute the men who teach them blind guides, and as things which the people were not to receive-10, though they should come from the very chair of Moses! Besides which, were it indeed true, that the Jewish multitude ought to have regulated their faith and practice simply by what these Scribes and Pharisees taught them, then ought they to have regarded the Son of Man as an impostor, his doctrine as a lie, and his miracles as the works of Satan: for thus did these infallible guides both do and teach! It was well therefore that the people should mark the readings of the law as performed by these occupants of the chair of Moses; but they were at the same time to be especially careful not to follow their guidance when attempting to make it void through their traditions.
Accordingly, in all the appeals of the Redeemer, his hearers are called upon to regard his miracles as forming the proof's of his divine mission, and to compare the whole of his pretensions with the predictions concerning him in the Old Testament Scriptures. And when the sacred historian applauded the Bereans, because, with a calmness and dignity worthy of their rational nature, and worthy of Jehovah's great message to mankind, they read the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so, you will be aware that he uttered a sentiment which would have been that of the inspired teachers generally under every such occurrence. And if inspired men insisted thus that every man
should be persuaded in his own mind as to the truth and excellence of the doctrine commended to him—if they, with all the attestations of their miraculous deeds, if they spoke to their converts, as to wise, or reasonable men, and bid them try the spirits, and to form their own conclusions respecting whatever was delivered to them as from God—then judge ye, brethren, concerning the nature of that apostacy, which not only deprives its multitudes of the right of private judgment, bidding them believe only as the priesthood may prescribe, but which resorts moreover to every conceivable device, for the purpose of checking all freedom of inquiry, and of covering those who contend for it with the reproach, and the loathing of mankind !
According to the doctrines of the apostacy, it is not by the patience and study of the Scriptures that we are to arrive at truth or hope ; but by taking our place at the feet of Pontiffs and Cardinals. In them, it is contended, that Infallible Spirit dwells, who dwelt in the first instructors of the faithful; and wherever they and their adherents are properly convened, to reject their statement, is to reject the Holy Ghost, and to rebel against the Majesty of Heaven, there assuredly present in the person of his delegates. It will be seen, therefore, that the Catholic priesthood assumes the authority, and even more than the authority, which pertained to the Apostles themselves. The substance of the reasoning employed in support of this theory, is, that if each man be allowed to form his own judgment respecting
the communications of the Scriptures, there will be no end to the diversities of religious opinions ; and as we applaud the wisdom, which in every civilized country, provides for an order of men to be the authorized interpreters of its laws, so should we be prepared to recognize in the Christian priesthood, the equally, and the only authorized interpreters of the sacred writings.
Now there would be some plausibleness in this hypothesis if in the New Testament, the word Church always, or even chiefly, meant the pastors of the Church alone—if the sacred scriptures extended to a series of ponderous volumes like the codes of empires—if they were drawn up too, in that dry technical form by which the enactments of human legislators are characterized; or if what they contain on the subject of human responsibility were really favourable to this view of it. But in the place of all this, we find that the word Church was never designed to be applied to teachers, to the exclusion of the taught—that the whole of divine revelation is comprised in such a space that the wayfaring man may render himself familiar with it—that, as to style, nothing can be conceived less technical, or more evidently adapted to the popular apprehension, than that which generally obtains in the Bible, while the whole current of its instruction clearly suggests, that he who reads and does not understand, fails, not on account of the obscurities of the text, but on account of his own criminal inaptitude.
Well it might have been too if the advocates of this scheme, while describing themselves as the