Page images

point to our principles as perilous to the safety of the country. You might rather assume the more amiable character of pacificator, and implore the public to wait with patience, since we should soon disappear from the land under the less violent process of dissolution or amalgamation. But you are alarmed that men of high position and distinguished intelligence should pass over to us, even at the sacrifice of every worldly interest, and you feel that in the changes which take place, the advantages are greatly on our side; whence you abandon calm discussion, and appeal to vulgar prejudice. At a moment when we are likely to fall victims to a vast conspiracy against the common liberties of the country, which are assailed in us, you reappear on the field, and join in the general onslaught. The tone of your former work was courteous, almost to affectation; the select topics of which you treated, were supported with a show of learning and argument; but your controversial tactics have undergone an unhappy change. The same professions of kindliness are, indeed, repeated with increased solemnity; the same attempt is made to sustain your positions by a display of authorities; but, for the most part, you rely on the scandals and abuses of past ages, to discredit and disgrace the Church, and you meet the learned statements and reasoning of Dr. Milner by abusive epithets, and unwarranted imputations. On reading your letters, I deter

mined not to give any special reply to them, but to refer to them in the preface and notes to a fourth stereotyped edition of my work on the Primacy, which was then in press, and which anticipated most of your charges. As, however, my manuscript arrived too late at the office, the plates being already finished, I am induced to answer briefly the chief points which you have brought under discussion, but still beg to refer to my larger treatise. Although I cannot complain of any gross violation of personal courtesy, your raillery being pardonable in a struggling controvertist, your charges are so gross and groundless, that in refuting them I may appear wanting in respect; yet I trust that I shall not forget what is due to your position, as well as my own, and to the interests of truth, which are best maintained when charity is not violated. "When I am under the necessity of answering others verbally, or in writing, even should I have been provoked by insulting charges, I endeavor, as far as the Lord gives me grace, to restrain and repress my feelings of indignation, that I may edify the hearers or readers, so that I seek not to prove superior to my adversary in railing, but profitable to others by exposing error.”* St. Augustin is my guide

and model.

* Contra litteras Petiliani, 1. iii. n. 1.


On the Rule of Faith.



OU accept the qualifications of the Rule of Faith, as laid down by Dr. Milner, namely, that it must be certain, secure, and universal. For the Church of England you claim that she is distinguished from fanatics, who take the Bible for their guide, interpreting it according to their fancy, whilst she holds the interpretation given of it by the ancient church, as embodied in the formularies, called symbols, and in the truly general councils. You do not, however, confine it to these, since you refer to the Book of Common Prayer generally, and to the ThirtyNine Articles in particular, as exponents of the primitive doctrine. Yet as these articles were adopted only under Elizabeth, instead of the forty-two articles approved by Edward, I do not see how they can serve as sure guides to the primitive interpretation of Scripture. Besides, you blame us for doctrinal definitions made in the Council of Trent, which you brand as additions to the ancient symbols, sanctioned by the

early councils: how, then, justify the English convocation or parliament in setting forth so many points of doctrine not specified in the ancient formularies? But be this as you please, you are entitled to the full benefit of the Articles and Prayer Book. It is for you to show that they so qualify and determine the interpretation of Scripture, that your members are not exposed to the danger of mistaking their own imaginations for the true meaning of the text. Dr. Milner insists that you must come down to the level of the Protestant masses from the vantageground which you proudly occupy: since, although you profess to understand the Scripture in conformity with the Articles, you have no certain means of determining the meaning of these, wherever they are open to ambiguity, whence the same conflict of views is witnessed among you, as in other Protestant communities.

As you refer to the ancient creeds, it may be fair to ask you, on what ground you assign them such high authority to determine the meaning of Scripture? The origin of the simplest form, called the Apostles' Creed, is a matter of question among critics, who likewise dispute as to its correct reading. Its authority must entirely rest on its ancient usage in the church. The Nicene Creed is a fuller development of it, made with a view to exclude the errors of Arius and Macedonius, by authority of the Councils of Nice and Constantinople. If their right to enlarge

the ancient formulary be admitted, can it be consistently maintained that councils of bishops do not still enjoy the same power? Of the creed called the Athanasian, which contains a still clearer exposition of the mysteries of the Trinity and Incarnation, together with a declaration of the necessity of holding the Catholic faith, under pain of eternal damnation, the Church of England professes that it, as well as the other two, "ought thoroughly to be received and believed, for they may be proved by most certain warrants of Holy Scripture:" whilst Episcopalians, in the United States, have expunged it altogether from their Prayer Book, and even left it free to omit the article of the Apostles' Creed: "He descended into hell."

You speak of the great doctrines of the Gospel Faith, embodied in the primitive creeds, as derived from the Scriptures; but you must be aware that the first formulary was not the result of Scriptural examination, but a simple profession of the leading mysteries traditionally preserved from the earliest period. Although it may not be demonstrable that the apostles composed it, its chief articles were certainly professed almost in the same words, throughout all the church, antecedently, as is probable, to the writing of several books of the New Testament. They bear no appearance of being framed after the perusal of the sacred books. Dr. Nevin observes: "The creed does not spring from the

« PreviousContinue »