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Presbyterianism and the Holy Scriptures

Brownson's Quaterly Review, October, 1846

Art. II. — The Constitution of the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America, containing the Confession of Faith, the Catechisms, and the Directory for the Worship of God; together with the Plan of Government and Discipline, as ratified by the General Assembly at their Sessions in May, 1821, and amended in 1833.    Philadelphia : Haswell & Co. 1838

In the article on  the Presbyterian Confession of Faith in this Journal for April last, we disposed of only the first half
of the first chapter ; we hope to be able in this to dispose of the remaining half, and present our readers a complete view of the tenets, or rather inconsistencies and contradictions, which the Westminster divines have contrived to compress within their preliminary chapter, " Of the Holy Scripture." In reality, the controversy should be regarded as ended with the fact we have already established, that Presbyterians are utterly unable to prove the inspiration of the Scriptures ; for, since they profess to found their doctrines on the Scriptures as inspired, it is evident, that, by failing to establish the fact of inspiration, they cannot proceed a single step in the argument, and that their whole fabric falls to the ground, and is only ruins and rubbish, if even so much. But waiving this, and granting them the inspiration of the Scriptures, — not. indeed, on their grounds, but on the testimony of the Catholic Church, which has all the marks of credibility the most captious can ask? — We resume the discussion, and admire anew the beauty and vigor of logic, the marvellous concatenation of conclusions, the acuteness of judgment, the felicitous application of Scriptural texts, which they display throughout their formulary, and which they offer us as their credentials.

We have already examined the first five articles of the first chapter ; we commence now with the sixth, which is as follows :

" The whole counsel of God, concerning all things necessary for his own glory, man's salvation, faith, and life, is either set down expressly in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture; unto which nothing at any time is to be added, whether by new revelations of the Spirit, or traditions of men. Nevertheless, we acknowledge the inward illumination of the Spirit of God to be necessary for the saving understanding of such things as are revealed in the word ; and there arc some circumstances concerning the worship of God, and the government of the Church, common to human actions and societies, which are to be ordered by the light of nature and Christian prudence, according to the general rules of the word, which are always to be obeyed."

The proofs of the three parts of the article are, —

" 1. 2 Tim. iii. 16, 17. All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness; that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works. 2. Gal. i. 8. But though we or an angel from heaven preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. ^ 1 ness. n. 2. That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand. 3. St. John, vi. 45. It is written in the prophets, And they shall be all taught of God. Every man there-tore that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto me. 1 Cor. ii 9, 10, 12. But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. But'God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit; for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God. Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God, that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. 1 Cor. xi. 13, 14. Judge in yourselves: is it comely that a woman pray unto God uncovered ? Doth not even nature itself teach you that if a man have long hair, it is a shame unto him ? 1 Cor. xiv 26 40. How is it, then, brethren ? when ye come together, every one of you hath a psalm, hath a doctrine, hath a tongue, hath a revelation, hath an interpretation. Let all things be done unto edifying.    Let all things be done decently and in order."

This   article   is   designed   to   establish  the  sufficiency  of the Scriptures, and to   reject the traditions  of  the  Catholic Church, and we should undoubtedly be bound to admit it   if Presbyterians  could show  conclusively that all was written and that all not written  is necessarily tradition of men.    But this, we proved in our former article, by undeniable facts and even by Scripture itself, they do not and cannot show.    We also showed  that the Scriptural texts which they adduced  to prove that the whole word was written prove no such thing and when adduced for such a purpose are mere mockery  or rather, an imposition attempted on the people.    It is not necessary to go anew over the  ground  we then surveyed ;   it is enough for  us  now simply  to  examine  the  additional  texts which the Presbyterian divines quote in support of the sufficiency of the Scriptures, and against Catholic tradition.

We remark, in passing, the palpable contradiction which the article just quoted bears on its very face. Its authors evidently felt themselves in an awkward position. They were under the necessity of making the article say, The Scriptures are sufficient, yet something is wanting in them ; they contain every thing, yet still something Inust be added. For after asserting that the Scriptures contain the whole counsel of God, every thing necessary unto faith and life, they suppose that "good and necessary consequences " are still to be drawn from them, as the condition of obtaining what is truly necessary for faith and life. Is not this asserting and denying the sufficiency of the Scriptures in the same breath ? If the Scriptures had been intended by Almighty God to contain his whole counsel, and to furnish us with all things necessary for his glory, and man's salvation, faith, and life, would they not of themselves draw these good and necessary consequences, and not leave a matter so important to the discretion and judgment of our Presbyterian divines ? To draw good and necessary consequences from given principles is far from being an easy matter, and is not unfrequently quite impossible. In science, for instance, the law of gravitation contains all the motions of the planets and comets, and he who could draw all the good and necessary consequences it involves would be the paragon of astronomers. This drawing of good and necessary consequences is, in fact, the real difficulty. What more absurd than to assert, that nothing must be added to the law of gravitation in astronomy, or that he who knows that law knows the whole of astronomy ? The whole of civil and municipal law is contained in the principle, Give to every one his due. Is every man able to deduce the whole, by " good and necessary consequences," from this principle ? and are all works on law to be condemned and reprobated, on the ground, that every man knows the principle, and the principle is all that needs to be known ? The immense number of volumes on jurisprudence have been written solely because, in the various cases which arise, it is not always easy to determine what really are the good and necessary consequences to be drawn, and applied to each particular case.

Is it different in religious matters ? Take, as an example, carrying the Lord's Supper to the sick. This is not expressly commanded in Scripture. But it is expressly stated, that the Lord's Supper is to be celebrated, and that, unless .one eat the flesh of the Son of Man, and drink his blood, he shall not have life in him. Now, what are the " good and necessary consequences " to be drawn from these two statements as to carrying the Lord's.. Supper to the sick ? Catholics draw one consequence, Presbyterians another ; which proves that it is difficult to draw " good and necessary consequences " from Scripture alone. In'point of fact, the Scriptures neither expressly command nor forbid the practice, and it must therefore be impossible from them alone to come to any certain conclusion respecting it, since the practice depends on the will of Christ, and they, in this instance, tell us nothing particularly of that will, one way or the other. Presbyterians consider the practice superfluous and even superstitious ; while the Catholic Church, the Church of England, and all the Oriental sects, are solicitous to impart this sacrament to the dying Christian, and believe this to be not only the most plausible consequence of the words of Scripture, but a positive institution of the Apostles and of our Lord himself. Who dares assert that " good and necessary consequences " from Scripture forbid it ? especially since they say nothing expressly about it, and it has been observed, from the time of the Apostles down, by so many millions of Christians, as an apostolic practice,— not indeed written in a book, but intrusted to living men, who continually observed it, and could not possibly mistake or forget it ? This is one example among a thousand equally clear and conclusive. It is, then, perfectly idle to tell us that the Scriptures are sufficient, and yet tell us that "good and necessary consequences " remain to be drawn from them without which they would be insufficient. The great difficulty is in drawing the consequences, and it is in the consequences they draw that men chiefly differ one from another, and fall into their dangerous errors and heresies. No book could be sufficient which should not itself draw and set down expressly all the good and necessary consequences requisite to God's dory, and man's salvation, faith, and life ; and as the Bible does not, by the confession of Presbyterians themselves, do this it is evidently insufficient, and they confess it to be insufficient even while insisting on its sufficiency.                                      '
The article contains, also, another contradiction, not less palpable. It affirms the Scriptures to be sufficient for all that concerns God's glory, and man's salvation, faith, and life, and yet asserts, that, besides them, " the illumination of the Spirit of God is necessary to a saving understanding of the word." There is more in this apparently modest and pious assertion of the necessity of inward illumination to the saving understanding of the Scriptures than may at first appear. It leaves the bcriptures open to every visionary or enthusiast, and wholly destroys their credibility as a monument of our faith. The meaning of a book is to be made out from the natural sense of the terms and expressions it employs, as understood by the community which uses them. If something interior and invisible is necessary to determine that meaning, the book is a mere scrawl or riddle, and utterly unfit to serve any purpose for which written documents are needed or used among men. The words, " this is my body," have a meaning of themselves, which must be sought in the religious community for which the book containing them was written. If, then, a Presbyterian comes forward and tells us that these words mean u this is not my body, but bread," and grounds his assertion on the assumed fact, that he has the Spirit and we have not, we can only treat his assertion as a like folly would be treated in a civil court. The assertion of the necessity of the inward illumination to the saving understanding of Scripture is, then, a flagrant contradiction of the assertion of the sufficiency of Scripture. It makes the Bible, in itself considered, virtually a sealed book, or a book of riddles, whose sense, if sense it have, only a few adepts can make out. Nothing could be more hostile to that sufficiency of the Holy Scriptures which Presbyterians profess to assert as their fundamental principle.*(footnote: * The Christian reader will readily understand we here neither deny nor mean to deny the necessity of divine grace, to enable one to make an act of faith meritorious in the sight of God. But an act of faith is one thing, and ascertaining the meaning of a text of Scripture quite another thing.) These contradictions can surprise no one at all acquainted with sectarians. Iniquity and error must ever of necessity contradict themselves. Only justice and truth can be always consequent and self-consistent.

But let us pass to the examination of the Scripture testimony by which the Presbyterian divines attempt to prove that the written word contains every thing necessary and is the sole rule of faith and practice. The passage adduced is the same which was previously brought forward, and which we examined in our former article, namely, " All Scripture is given by inspiration of God," &c. ; only it is now produced with the addition of the words, " that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works." What more inapposite or inadequate to their purpose could they possibly allege ? The holy Apostle is here instructing his disciple Timothy, not giving directions to Christians generally. He speaks, moreover, of the Old Testament, the only Scriptures' Timothy could have known from his childhood, since a great part of the New Testament was not written till after St. Paul wrote this Epistle, and the part which was written had, most likely, not yet been collected into a volume. If, then, the text quoted proves any thing to the purpose, it proves too much ; for it proves that the Old Testament alone is sufficient, which Presbyterians would be as loath to admit as we. Such a conclusion might, indeed, be acceptable to Jews ; but even Presbyterians must reject it at once. Then, again, the text by no means asserts or maintains the sufficiency of the Scriptures of the Old Testament, or of the New, or of both together. It simply indicates the Scriptures, and especially those of the Old Testament, the only Scriptures the holy Apostle is then speaking of, as an excellent means of perfecting the man of God, — that is, the clergyman, the bishop, or pastor of souls, —of thoroughly furnishing him for every good word and work. All this is true, and does not in the least suppose that the Scriptures contain every thing necessary and are of themselves alone sufficient for every purpose. It simply supposes that the clergyman will acquire perfection by the perusal and study of the Sacred Scriptures. If we exhort a young orator to study Demosthenes, and tell him that this study will perfect him as an orator, and furnish him with proper models for every species of composition, we by no means assert or imply that Demosthenes will absolutely suffice for every thing, that there will be no need of Greek grammar and lexicon, without which, perchance, Demosthenes might be a sealed book. Hence, this text, adduced by Presbyterians to prove that the Scriptures alone are sufficient for every thing, and are the sole rule of faith and practice, proves nothing to their purpose. It is one of those illusory and nugatory proofs with which this Confession of Faith abounds, and merely proves either the want of ingenuousness and strict integrity on the part of its framers, or the great difficulty they found in drawing u good and necessary consequences '" from the words of Scripture.

But, leaving this text, we turn to the consideration of the Scriptural authorities adduced for rejecting Catholic traditions. The pertinency and force of these authorities consist in a species of trick, which is any thing but ingenuous, and is altogether-unworthy the character, we were about to say, even of Presbyterians. We are told that the Scriptures are so complete, that nothing is to be added to them " by the traditions of men,"—just as if any Catholic held that traditions of men were to be taken as the word of God ! If the question turned on traditions of men, traditions broached and set up, after the Apostles, by men who gave out their own visions, fancies, or excogitations for the word of God, we should be as ready, to say the least, to discard them as Presbyterians are. We grant, nay, earnestly contend, that all such traditions are to be discarded, and this is one reason why we do and must discard Presbyterianism itself, — palpably a mere tradition of men, first concocted full fifteen hundred years after Christ and his holy Apostles. These are not the traditions Catholics assert and contend for. Catholics say Christ and his Apostles taught men, viva voce, many things which were not committed to writing, but which have been preserved faithfully in the doctrine and practice of the Church, according to the admonition of the holy Apostle Paul: — "Stand firm, brethren, and hold the traditions you have learned, whether by word or by our epistle." 2 Thess. ii. 14. These traditions are not the traditions of men, but an integral part of the revealed word, —the revelations and teaching of God (tradited) transmitted by men, who can and do transmit many things without writing, as they transmit language, and various practices and habits, which no one finds first, if at all, in books, but which every one learns long before opening a book.

If the Presbyterians had the candor to acknowledge these facts, or if their readers were aware of them, they would see, at a glance, that the passages adduced do not in the least impugn" Catholic traditions. Those passages simply condemn traditions of men, — not traditions transmitted by men, but traditions which are of human origin, and which Catholics have always been, and are, the first and the most strenuous to condemn. The first text adduced is from St. Paul. " Though we or an angel from heaven preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed." The Presbyterian divines bring forward this passage as expressly condemning all traditions ; but no selection could be more unfortunate for them. It not only says nothing against traditions, but is an awful denunciation of Presbyterianism, and an express command to all who would adhere to the Gospel of our Lord to hold it accursed. These divines would represent this text to mean, If any body holds any doctrine to be divinely revealed not written in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, let him be accursed : therefore, let Papists, who hold traditional doctrines, be accursed. Yet there is no scholar but would be ashamed to pretend that this is the real meaning ; and even Presbyterians themselves, if they would examine the context, would, on this point, agree with us. The Galatians had  been converted to Christ by the Apostle St. Paul, who had taken great pains to make them understand that the  Mosaical  ceremonies were not only unnecessary, but, if observed in a Jewish spirit, and considered a necessary part of Christianity, even superstitious.    Some Jewish teachers went among them, and persuaded them to embrace these same ceremonies as necessary, and thus caused them to turn again to the weak and poor elements  of the Law.    They observed days, and months, and years, and wished  again to come under the Law.    (iv. 9, 10, 21.)    On learning this, the Apostle wrote to them in  terms  of  mingled holy indignation and burning charity.    " I wonder that you are so soon removed from him who called you to the grace of Christ,  to  another gospel, which is not another, only there  are  some who trouble you, and would pervert the Gospel of Christ.   But though we or an angel from heaven preach  any other gospel to you than that which we have preached to you, let him be anathema."    The meaning of St.  Paul is clearly, If any body, even an angel, come   and  preach   to you the   necessity of Jewish  observances, let him be accursed ; and, in a more general sense, If any one, even an angel, preach to you  any doctrine contrary to that  which we have preached, let him be accursed.    That this is his meaning, and that the one given in the Confession is absurd, must be manifest to  all who reflect that St. Paul says nothing here of a gospel written, but speaks simply of a gospel 'preached, — that the Four Gospels were not then written, — certainly not that of St. John, which was not written till many years afterwards, — and that many other portions of the Scriptures were also as yet unwritten, as learned Presbyterians are themselves aware and admit.    If the Presbyterian interpretation of the text were admitted, we should be required to reject every writing  of the Apostles  posterior to the date of the  Epistle to the Galatians, even many of the Epistles of St.   Paul  himself,   as   another   gospel   than   that  which  he preached to the Galatians, — a conclusion which even Presbyterians must shrink from with horror.    But, if many things were added to the New Testament, containing doctrines not found in  the  parts written  prior  to  the  Epistle  in  question, every one must see that St. Paul could have meant only what we have alleged, that is, If any one hold any thing contrary to the Christian traditions which you have received from us, let him be accursed.    The Gospel preached to the Galatians must have been, to a great extent, if not exclusively, a traditional one.   Consequently, the meaning of St. Paul must have been, If any one hold any doctrine contrary to that which has been given to you, whether in writing or orally, it matters not whether in the one mode or the other, let him be accursed. So far, then, from asserting that there must be no traditions, this text, as far as it goes, presupposes and teaches to the contrary.

The Church has always cherished this maxim of the great Apostle, written far more efficaciously in the  convictions and practices of Christians than it can be on paper.    If any one comes forward preaching any doctrine unknown before him, or irreconcilable with the dogmas  already received, the language of Catholics has been from the  first, Let him be anathema. On this ground any doctrine which is new is rejected as false ; for, if new, it cannot be a doctrine of the Apostles, but must be the offspring of the human intellect or fancy.    There is no need of discussion, no need of a long course of reading. Is the doctrine  contrary to what has been taught ?    Then it is false.   If, per impossibile, an angel from heaven were to preach it, still it is false  and to be rejected ; for we  know that the doctrines  taught by the Apostles  are from God, and so confirmed  by miracles, that it would be  absurd  not to  receive them.    We know, also, that God protects his Church against even hell, whose gates can never prevail against it.    We know this latter point from innumerable proofs, among which we reckon as not the least this very text of St. Paul, which commands us, if even an angel should come preaching any novelty contrary to the doctrine preached in the Church, not to listen
to him.

But what will become of Presbyterianism, if tried by this test, — the touchstone furnished by the great Apostle, the Doctor of Nations ? What, in fact, is it itself, but a naked, undisguised, and undisguisable novelty ? What is it, but a doctrine undeniably contrary to that of the Apostles, and which has been received in the Church through every age ? That it was a novelty at the time when John Calvin and John Knox broached it is so evident, that Presbyterians themselves cannot seriously undertake to deny it. They themselves tell us that they left the Catholic Church in consequence of its old errors, old superstitions, old corruptions, old traditions of men. Calvin and Knox gave themselves out as the preachers of new and pure doctrines, the propagators of a new light, and the authors of a new era for the religious world. What was this, but setting aside the ancient doctrine, and substituting a modern one ?     But the Apostle solemnly declares, that, if even an angel comes preaching a doctrine different from what has been preached before, he is to be accursed.    Alas for Presbvte-rianism ! even if it had been preached by an angel from heaven, we are commanded  by the very text which Presbyterians adduce, and are ambitious of engraving on their escutcheon, to hold it accursed ; how much rather, then, since it was preached by no angel, but by such men as John Calvin and John Knox, certainly no angels, — unless of darkness !    This text of St. Paul, then, instead of militating  against Catholic traditions, is evidently a  direct and  irrevocable  condemnation of Preshyterianism itself, indeed of all modern sects, among which Presbyterians, we admit, are entitled to the first rank.    Decidedly, they should  not quote  this  text.     The  Philistines  flattered themselves  that they had achieved a glorious victory, when they took captive the Ark of Israel, and carried it in triumph to their own country ; but when  they beheld their god Dagon mutilated and their cities depopulated by the divine justice, they were even more eager to restore it than they had been to possess it.    Presbyterians, perhaps, will be as eager hereafter to restore this  text to  its rightful  owners, as  the Philistines were the Ark.

The second text the Confession quotes against Catholic traditions is, " Be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter, as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand." This is a singular text to prove that Scripture is sufficient, and that Catholic traditions are traditions of men, and to be discarded.
" Sharp optics has he, I ween, Who sees what's not to he seen."

So sharp logicians are our Presbyterian divines, who find proofs where proofs there are none. St. Paul writes to the Thessalonians not to believe the Millerites of their time ; therefore the Scriptures alone are the sole rule of faith and practice ; therefore Catholic traditions are traditions of men, and to be discarded ! There is no refuting such reasoning. But, seriously, if Presbyterians adduce this text as evidencing an instance of false tradition, how happens it they fail to perceive, that, in their haste to pluck out their neighbours' eyes, they most effectually pluck out their own ? St. Paul refers to tradition not only by toord, but also by letter. If Presbyterians say, Therefore there have been false traditions, and therefore all traditions are to be discarded ; we retort, Therefore  there have been false Scriptures, and therefore all Scripture is to be discarded. If the subject were not so serious, one could not help being amused with the zeal of Presbyterians against the traditions of men,  when their  own Confession and Constitution show  us with what admirable docility and tameness they submit to doctrines and practices which have and  can have no origin but in the pride of innovators ; when we are  able to  point out the very year of the birth of the founder of Presbyterianism, fifteen  hundred years  after our Saviour, the year  in which he separated himself from the Church, the exact data of the Cal-vinistic   inoculation  of John Knox, the  year  and the month of the various enterprises of Calvinism in the several parts of Europe, and, in fact, of the  origin  of all their religious practices.    Here we have unquestionably an example of traditions of   men  held  as   the  pure  word  of   God   by  Presbyterians themselves,  although   the year and  day can be pointed  out when they sprang  from  the head  of  Calvin  and   Calvinistic leaders.    How, then, can they have the hardihood, nay', how can they be so suicidal as to speak against traditions of men ? What can  be more supremely ridiculous than to  discard as human tradition the  celebration  of Easter, the solemn commemoration of the death of Christ by a  season of penance and  fasting, when  the death and resurrection of Christ ^are both mentioned in the New Testament, when the Old Testament abounds with festivals divinely instituted in commemoration   of  great  events,   and  these   two yearly  commemorations are found to have been observed in  the Church from the earliest ages, — and yet tn admit as Scriptural a mode of ecclesiastical government by congregational, presbyterial, and  synodical  assemblies,  of which  there was no  example at the time of Calvin's  birth, and of which there never had been an example in the world ?     What more undeniably a human tradition than the name, office, functions, and mode of election and  ordination, of a  Presbyterian ruling elder 9 Surely, Presbyterians are the last people in the world to speak disrespectfully "of human  traditions,  as  we  shall show, even more conclusively, when we reach the various questions which will come up under their Constitution and Plan of Government. Deprive them of human traditions, and  they would be in the sad plight of the man of Mount  Ephraim, who ran  afterthe Danites with his piteous wail, and when asked why he cried, answered, " Ye have taken away my gods which I have made me, and the priest, and all that I have, and do you say, What aileth thee ? "    Judges xvili. 24.

After all, it is only in theory and by way of boasting, that Presbyterians assert the sufficiency of the Scriptures alone as the sole rule of faith and practice. They really hold the Bible alone to be quite inadequate to the formation of a system of religious doctrine, and are in this respect remarkable among all modern sects ; or else why the volume before us ? If the Scriptures alone be sufficient, if they are the sole rule of faith and practice, why the Westminster Confession of Faith, the Larger and Shorter Catechisms, the Directory, the Form of Government and Discipline, and other valuable appendages ? Is it not solely because Presbyterians fear that people will not find in the Bible this mode of government by ministers, ruling elders, and deacons, the three grades of the Presbyterian hierarchy ? Is it not because they have a suspicion that people will not, without the help of the Confession of Faith, the Larger and Shorter Catechisms, find out that God in the beginning made some men with the design of beatifying and glorifying them, and others with the design of making them the prey of eternal fire ? Is it not because they are afraid that the dogma, that God leaves sinners, and sometimes even just men, without the gracious assistance necessary to enable them to keep his law, will not be ferreted out by the reader of Scripture, unless it is propounded to them in the Confession and Catechisms, since Presbyterians or Calvinisls are the only ones who find out that this and the other articles of the Calvin-istic creed are clearly taught in Scripture ? They hold their Confession of Faith, their Directory, their plan of government, their catechisms, and their discipline to be necessary ; hence, they ordain that no one shall be licensed " as an elder or a minister, unless he adopt the Confession of Faith, and- approve of the government and discipline of the Presbyterian Church." If these be necessary, and Scripture alone contains every thing necessary, how happens it that it does not contain these, and in the precise form in which they are tQ be adopted and approved by the candidates for license ? Did the Holy Ghost forget himself, and hence the necessity of the Westminster divines to supply his deficiency ?

There are some Protestant sects who are far from being guilty of the particular species of hypocrisy chargeable upon Presbyterians ; sects which do not uphold the sufficiency of Scripture with one hand, and  demolish it with the other by imposing creeds and confessions drawn up by men, which discard all creeds, even the Apostles' Creed, every discipline and directory as a curse, and hold up the Scriptures alone as sufficient, as the sole rule of faith, without gloss, note, or comment. In one sense these do admit the sufficiency of Scripture, for this is all they admit; since they do not agree on a single article taught by the Scriptures, as must be the case with all who assert the sufficiency of the Bible alone ; — another and a conclusive proof to Catholics, that Scripture alone is not sufficient, and that Christ and the Apostles did not intend to write every thing necessary, but left every thing in the hands of a living body subsisting always unto the consummation of the world, always supernaturally assisted and able to transmit both what was written, with its true interpretation, and  what was not written.     Hence  the command and the promise, — " Going, teach all nations,.....teaching them to observe all things whatsoever which I have commanded you ; for, behold, I am with you all days unto the consummation of the world."    St. Matt, xxviii. 19, 20.

But we come now to another point in the Protestant creed, namely, the clearness of Scripture. Here the Presbyterians seem to surpass even themselves in mystification, and in that peculiar skill in deducing proofs from Scripture, which reminds us of the etymology of lucus from non lucendo. We quote the article entire, with its proofs.

" Art. VII. All things in Scripture are not alike plain in themselves, nor alike clear unto all; yet those things which are necessary to be known, believed, and observed, for salvation, are so clearly propounded and opened in some place of Scripture or other, that not only the learned, but the unlearned, in a due use of the ordinary means, may attain unto a sufficient understanding of them.

" 2 Pet. iii. 16. As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things ; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other Scriptures, unto their own destruction. Ps. exix. [cxviii.] 105, 130. Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path. — The entrance of thy words giveth light; it giveth understanding unto the simple."

The hypothesis on which this article was framed is, since the Scripture contains every thing, is of itself sufficient, without tradition or any thing else, and the sole rule of faith and practice, it must, of course, be clear and open to all; but there is an unlucky text of St. Peter which states boldly and uncompromisingly that there are things in the Scriptures hard > to be understood, and Catholics do not ftiil to urge this text, with advantage, against us. We must, then, lay it down in our Confession, that in things not necessary Scripture is indeed obscure, but in things necessary it is clear even to the unlearned. This article opens a wide field of inquiry, but we must confine ourselves to a few points. What, we ask, are those things which are necessary, and about which Scripture is clear ? The Presbyterians evidently mean their doctrines, as contained in the Confession of Faith, the Larger and Shorter Catechisms, &c. Be it so. But unhappily, as blind men seeking to avoid one danger fall into another, they assert this without proof, and may be met by stricter logic with the reply, that those things are necessary which are clear, and not the reverse ; and then, that it is necessary for salvation to believe there once lived a man called Methusalem, — for this is so clearly stated in Scripture that no one, believing the Scriptures, ever did or ever can call it in question ; and,on the contrary, that it is not necessary to believe in the divinity of our Lord, — for this is not clear in the Scriptures, since there were many who questioned it in the fourth century, and there are many who do not believe it now, and deny that it is taught in the Scriptures at all. But granting the necessary articles may be settled by some other process, let us look at the proofs which Presbyterians adduce to establish their position, that Scripture is obscure only on matters which are not necessary. These proofs are in the text irom St. Peter. But this text proves the very reverse. It says there are things hard to be understood in the Scriptures, which some wrest to their own destruction. If they can wrest these things hard to be understood to their own destruction, they must be necessary to salvation ; for if not, no misapprehension of their sense could involve destruction. The things, then, of which St. Peter speaks, are not unnecessary things, but necessary, and which it is necessary for salvation rightly to understand. The Presbyterians, therefore, prove on Scriptural authority the opposite in their notes of what they assert in the text, as is usual with them.

Nothing but pride and ignorance could ever induce any one to deny that there are things in the Bible obscure and hard to be understood. That the obscurities and difficulties pertain to things important and most essential is obvious from daily experience, and from  St. Peter, who would not have spoken of them, if they concerned neither faith nor salvation,     Suppose an ordinary reader, on finding in the Bible that the eyes of our first parents were opened, imagines that they were previously blind, or had  an   additional   eyelid ;   that  one   commentator thinks the forbidden fruit was an apple, and another that it was an orange, and still another that it was a fig ; that one believes that the whale which swallowed Jonas was a shark, and another that it was some other kind of fish, now extinct; that this one, when he reads St. Paul's  declaration,  « A night and a day 1 have  been  in the deep," concludes that he was  on  a plank upon the  water, and  another,  that he was under the water ; will it be necessary to conclude that one or the other ol these wrests the Scriptures to his own destruction, and must necessarily be lost ?    Nobody can believe it.     Then it cannot be ot such interpretations as these, or the misapprehension ot such matters as these, St. Peter speaks ; but we must understand him to speak of such matters as Christians generally, and I res-byterians particularly, hold to be necessary.     * or instance, St  Paul tells us, " Abraham believed and it was reputed to him for justice » ; are we, therefore, to hold ourselves secure if we only believe, but are careless about every thing else t So of innumerable  other questions which immediately concern religion and morality.

Presbyterians, then, evidently fail to make out that the obscurities of Scripture are confined to things which are not_necessary ; let us see if they succeed better in making out that it is clear in things necessary, - clear not for the learned only, but also for the unlearned, — and not by extraordinary means or helps irom above, but by the due use of the ordinary means. Their whole proof of this rests on the texts from the Psalmist, < 1 hy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path,         lhe entrance of thy words giveth light ; it giveth understanding unto the simple." David; writing his Psalms under the influence ot divine inspiration, says the word of God is a lamp to his leet, a light to his path, and therefore every Presbyterian, in case he has the written word, is to conclude that he is equally privileged ! David says in the same Psalm, " I rose at midnight to give praise to Thee." Shall we, therefore, conclude, forthwith, that all Presbyterians rise at midnight to sing psalms . But admitting the text to be applicable to all Christians, nothing proves that David spoke of a word known to him by his own reading of the Bible, or even by the common tradition of the Jews ; and consequently, the text proves merely that knowledge of the law of God, when once obtained, however obtained, whether by reading the Bible or from oral tradition, is a lamp and a light. It does not say this knowledge is obtained or obtainable from reading the Bible, much less does it say the Bible by the due use of ordinary means is clear even to the unlearned in all necessary things. Any man, knowing the true religion, might and would apply the words to himself, even though unable to read a syllable. The text, moreover, makes no reference to the distinction between things necessary and things unnecessary. If, then, it prove the necessary facts of the written word to be clear, it proves the unnecessary facts to be equally clear. Finally, it is presumable that St. Peter knew the psalms of the royal prophet, and the particular passage in question, at least as well as modern Presbyterians know them, and yet lie expressly and solemnly asserts that there are things in the Scriptures " hard to be understood, which the unlearned and unstable wrest to their own destruction." But it is unnecessary to say more on such proofs as these. Presbyterians cannot be supposed to place any confidence in them themselves.
There is no need of dwelling longer on the fact that the Scriptures are not clear in every thing necessary. It is altogether silent on many points of great consequence, as we proved in our former article, and it barely alludes to others no less important. After what we have said, we may conclude the discussion of the clearness of Scripture with the remark, that Presbyterians must have an unenviable share of assurance to assert, as they do, and apparently without blushing, notwithstanding these words of Scripture, " If any man be sick among you, let him bring in the priests of the Church, and let them pray over him, annointing him with oil," &c, or these other words, " Take ye and eat, this is my body,..... Wherefore, whosoever shall eat this bread, or drink the chalice of the Lord unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord," that it is clear there is no such thing as the Real Presence in the Eucharist, and that Extreme Unction is a Popish imposition ; or to assert, as they also do, in the face of the declaration of St. Paul, " He that is without a wife is solicitous for the things which belong to the Lord ; but he that is with a wife is solicitous for the things of the world, how he may please his wife ; and the unmarried woman thinketh on the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and in spirit,"

1 Cor. vii, 32-34, that it is, nevertheless, clear from Scripture, that monastic vows of perpetual celibacy are superstitious and sinful snares. While they reject Catholic dogmas and practices so unequivocally expressed in the Scriptures, we can only smile at their simplicity, or grieve at their impudence, in asserting that they find clearly stated in Scripture all the rules enjoined for keeping Sunday, and all the impediments to marriage originating in consanguinity or affinity. They can quote long Scripture passages, upon these points, it is true ; but these passages are from the law of Moses, which every body admits to have been abrogated by Christ, yet this is nothing to Presbyterians. They are bent upon finding Scripture authority for the practice they have determined to adopt, and they can hardly be expected not to succeed — in some way ; especially since their people are blest with a plentiful share of ignorance and credulity. We would, however, since they insist on quoting the law of Moses, when it suits their predeterminations, recommend them to go the whole length of the thing; and, if they will quote the Old Testament for the keeping of Sunday, let them keep also the " Sabbath of years," and leave their land fallow every seventh year, Lev. xxv. 4. Let them also keep all the laws of Moses on marriage ; and in particular the law in Deuteronomy xxv. G-10. They would then preserve, at least, some show of consistency. But enough on this branch of the subject.

We have now readied the eighth article, which will detain us a little longer.
"The Old Testament in Hebrew (which was the native language of the people of God of old) and the New Testament in Greek (which at the time of the writing of it was most generally known to the nations), being immediately inspired by God, and by his singular care and providence kept pure in all ages, are therefore au-thentical, so as in ail controversies of religion the Church is finally to appeal unto them. But because these original tongues are not known to all the people of God, who have right unto and interest in the Scriptures, and are commanded in the fear of God to read and search them, therefore they are to be translated into the vulgar language of every nation unto which they come, that the word of God dwelling plentifully in all, they may worship him in an acceptable manner, and through patience and comfort of the Scriptures have hope.
" Matt. v. 18. For verily T say unto you, till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.    Isa. viii. 20.   To the law and to the testimony, &c.

Acts xv. 15. John v. 46. John v. 39. Search the Scriptures, for in them ye think ye have eternal life; and they are they which testify of me. 1 Cor. xiv. 6-28. Col. iii. 16. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly," &c.     Horn. xv. 4.
Before proceeding to consider the real merits of the questions involved in  this  article, we must say a word or two on the marvellous appositeness of these Scriptural authorities.    We have so often been compelled  to  notice the peculiar beauty and force of Presbyterian logic in the application of Scriptural texts, that our readers may be wellnigh surfeited, as we confess we   are   ourselves.    Too   much   of a good  thing,  says the proverb, is good for nothing.    Nevertheless, we must sit yet longer at the feast.    Christ said,  " One jot or one tittle shall not pass from the law till all be fulfilled " ; therefore the Hebrew and Greek copies of the Scriptures which we now have are au-thentical, and have been kept pure in all ages !    It is not easy to surpass this.    But add, for the greater edification of pious Presbyterians, therefore the Bible of King James is authenii-cal, correctly translated, and perfectly pure !    The marvellous appositeness of this proof is in the well known fact, that St. Matthew, from whom it is taken, wrote his Gospel in Hebrew, and that Hebrew text is lost, and we have only a translation of it !   Again.   <« To the Jaw and to the testimony " ; therefore, if we have a religious controversy to settle, we must run and learn Hebrew and Greek, for it is only by appealing to the Hebrew and Greek copies that we can  have a reasonable hope of arriving at the truth.   Wonderful logic !   Who but Presbyterians could ever have compassed  it?    St.  Paul found  fault with certain primitive Christians, who, having received  the  gift of tongues, were eager to speak in the church in unknown  languages.    He wishes  them to show more moderation, and  to speak in them only where there is an interpreter.     Therefore the Scriptures are to be translated into the vulgar tongues, distributed everywhere to all, and in every language !    But, if so, why did not the Apostles themselves draw this conclusion, so "good and necessary »  in the view of our learned and acute jresbyterian divines,  and give us   from  their own   hands  a Latin, a Syriac, an Arabic, a Gallic New Testament ?    It is singular how much superior as logicians our Presbyterian divines are to  the Apostles, and how inconsistent the  neglect of the Apostles must appear to them.    But the Presbyterians live in modern  times, have the advantages of modern progress, and therefore must naturally be supposed to surpass the Apostles,
who lived a long time ago, and had only the lights of divine inspiration.                                                                           i
We shall restrict what we have to say on the article under consideration to three questions, namely :  1.  Are the Hebrew copies of the Old Testament and the Greek copies of the New, which we now possess, more  " authentical»  than  the   Latin Vuteate ?    2. Is there a positive obligation upon all men to read the Scriptures ?    And 3. Is the distribution of the Scriptures to all indiscriminately in the vulgar tongues an effectual way ot making the word of God dwell plentifully in all, and ot attaining the end for which it was given ?

 1. The Latin Vulgate, put by the side of the Hebrew and Greek copies of the Scriptures we now have, will not suffer by the comparison ; and our Douay Bible, made from it with re-markable accuracy, is superior to the version of King James, though this last purports to be made from the original tongues, since the Latin Vulgate is at least as good a representative ot the word of God as the modern copies in the original tongues now in our possession, and the English version made from it is a far better performance than that of the translators appointed by the royal theologian.    If we possessed the autographs ot Moses and the other Jewish writers in Hebrew, and those ot the Apostles themselves in Greek, no one would be lound, o course, to contest their superiority ; though, after all, they would be found to agree substantially with our modern Bible. ^ liut the autograph is lost, and the manuscripts or printed copies ot Hebrew and   Greek Bibles are only transcriptions ol  other copies which are also lost, and which themselves were only transcriptions.    To tell the number of transcriptions there have been, in ascending from a modern Hebrew Bible to Moses, would puzzle greater men than even Westminster divines.   1 his being understood, it will not be disputed that our present copies of the Hebrew Bible may and must have mistakes and errors, unless indeed it be contended  that  God has  by a continua miracle directed the hand of every copyist.    These errors and mistakes, it is true, do not affect the substance of the text, or prevent  it  from  representing the  substance of the dogmas, morals, and history recorded by the sacred penman ;  but they are blemishes, and blemishes which place the   Hebrew and Greek text as low as, and even lower than, an early translation, in which there must have been fewer chances of accidental variations, and in which such as did occur were more likely to be corrected.   Such a translation is the Latin Vulgate, at least in the view of Catholics, who respect, indeed, the Hebrew and Greek copies, but are far from considering them the only or even the most authentic monuments we now have of divine revelation.

Presbyterians seem, in their Scriptural quotations, to intimate that every thing, even to a single jot or comma, in the Hebrew and Greek copies is correct; but this, it is well known, is not the fact. The several Hebrew and Greek manuscripts extant are known to differ from one another by something more than jots and commas. Which of these manuscripts is the one Presbyterians declare to be genuine, the one immediately inspired ? Open Griesbach's edition of the New Testament, and you bhall find scarcely a page which does not present various readings, all of which are supported by Greek manuscripts, and with no possible means of determining in all cases which is the genuine reading. Who, in the face of this fact, can unblushingiy assert that God by his providence has so watched over the Hebrew and Greek copies of the Bible, that they are absolutely pure, and in nothing differ from the autographs themselves ? Every one who can read a word of Hebrew and Greek, and compare editions, knows such an assertion to be false. The simple fact, then, that the Old Testament was written in Hebrew, and the New in Greek, is not, then, in itself a reason for preferring our present Hebrew and Greek copies to authentic versions, possessing the requisite qualities. The Latin Vulgate may, then, represent the word of God as well as the received Hebrew text, and we hesitate not to say that in many things it actually does represent it even better. Not to enter too far into Biblical criticism, we select a couple of examples from many others we might adduce. Genesis, iv. 8, we read in the Vulgate, " And Cain said to his brother Abel, Let us go forth abroad. And when they were in the field, Cain rose up against his brother Abel and slew him." In the Hebrew the words let us go forth abroad, are wanting, and hence the royal theologians in the Protestant version translate, " And Cain talked with Abel, his brother ; and it came to pass, when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against his brother and slew him." The Vulgate here is far preferable to the Hebrew, and Moses must have written as in the Vulgate, and not as in the modern Hebrew. The proof of this is in the fact that the Septuagint has these words, " Let us go forth abroad," the Targum of Jerusalem has them, and so has the Pentateuch of the Samaritans ; and this last must be for the learned high authority. Hence St. Jerome, who had the Samaritan Pentateuch under his eyes,
was induced to retain the reading which we have in the Vulgate. The context itself confirms this reading. The modern Hebrew says that Cain spoke to Abel, but, unless we add the words in the Vulgate, he is made to speak without saying anything. Moreover, if we admit that Cain said, " Let us go forth abroad," the following words, " And when they were in the field," &c, come in naturally, and with perfect propriety. Here are sufficient considerations for preferring the reading of the Vulgate to that of the modern Hebrew.

The other example we select is Ps. xxi. 17, " They have dug my hands and feet," said in reference to Christ on the cross. The modern Hebrew text, however, has, instead of " they have dug," the words " like a lion." But so untenable is this latter reading, that Protestants generally, and even the Westminster divines themselves, notwithstanding they found out that the Hebrew text is absolutely pure, because not a jot or a tittle of the law was to pass away, reject it and adopt that of the Vulgate and other versions. There is no need of multiplying examples in support of a point which no learned Protestant disputes. The rule to be laid down is, that the best reading is not always that of the Hebrew or Greek, but is to be determined by a cautious and judicious comparison of the texts of ancient manuscripts and versions.*
The merits of the Vulgate, as a translation, far exceed those of any modern version.    It was chiefly the work of St. Jerome, whose reputation for learning and skill in the Oriental languages stands unrivalled, and who had far better opportunities than we now have of obtaining the best Hebrew and Greek manuscripts, since he lived at the time when the great Alexandrian library was still in its glory.  Moreover, he was admirably well acquainted with the country, the usages, the laws, and the history of the Jews, and he spent a great portion of his life in the conscientious performance of his task.   Hence his translation was soon adopted by the whole Church, and acquired from this fact a higher stamp of authenticity than could be obtained by the mere skill of a translator ; because Divine Providence could not suffer any but an authentic copy of the precious deposite of divine revelation to  become current in  the Church.    This consideration weighed with the Fathers of the Council of Trent, in declaring the Vulgate to be an authentic copy of the word of God, and their judgment has been confirmed by the most learned and impartial Protestants.    English translations of the Bible, purport* (footnote* See, for a fuller discussion of this point, the following article.)

ing to be from the original tongues, are often wretched performances, and sometimes shameful corruptions of the word of God. The version of King James, though freed from many wilful corruptions and alterations, yet contains many unwarrantable errors, and pernicious additions and mutilations, as our authors easily establish. We refer the reader on this point to Ward's Errata, and also to Campbell's Preliminary Dissertations.

2. But we pass to our second question, namely, Is there a positive obligation upon all men to read the Bible ? Our Presbyterian divines say authoritatively that there is, but without satisfying us that they are right. No obligation should be assumed to be binding on all men, unless established by irrefragable proofs, and, in the present case, unless established by clear and undeniable Scriptural authority. Presbyterians hold that the Scriptures alone are the sufficient and the sole rule of faith and practice, and that they clearly and sufficiently expound all the duties of Christians. Then they cannot assume that all men are bound to read the Scriptures, unless they can prove it by a clear and undisputable command from the Scriptures themselves. But where is the Scriptural text which declares it to be the duty of all men to read the Bible ? The Confession of Faith relies on the passage from St. John, " Search the Scriptures ; for in them ye think ye have eternal life ; and they are they which testify of me " ; but this in reality proves nothing to the purpose. By reading the chapter from which this text is taken, it will be seen that our Lord, by the cure of an infirm man at the pond Probation, on the Sabbath day, incurred the displeasure of the Jews, who even thought of putting him to death. Against these Jews, against these envenomed enemies, he argues to prove the divinity of his mission, and refers them to the Scriptures, and bids them study them attentively, for they bear testimony for him. Now, how from this can it be inferred that it is positively obligatory upon Christians, and especially upon all men, to read the Bible ? In the first place, the Presbyterian who reads this passage in the original tongue must find that the word search may be in the indicative mood, as well as in the imperative, and that the translation might have been, without any impropriety, " Ye search the Scriptures, for in them ye think ye have eternal life ; now they are they which testify of me." St. Cyril, who was at least as good a Greek scholar as were King James's translators, so interprets it, and some modern Protestants do the same. In this case, the words of our Lord do not contain even the shadow of a command. Now, a Presbyterian has no possible way to determine whether the inspired writer used the indicative mood or the imperative; and here is a clear proof of the obscurity of Scripture on a duty which Presbyterians must hold to be of paramount importance.

But suppose the verb to be in the imperative mood, still no obligation upon all Christians to read the Bible can be deduced.  The words quoted were addressed to the Jews, who denied the mission of Christ, — not to Christians at large, for the purpose of enjoining a  precept;  they were  said, moreover, only in reference to the Old Testament, the only Scriptures then in existence, and merely imply, that, if the Jews had attentively  read  the   Old   Testament,  they would  have  been brought to a knowledge of Christ's authority.    As much as to say, If ye were acquainted with the Scriptures, in which ye think ye have eternal life, ye would not reject me, for they bear witness to me.     Suppose a Christian, arguing against a Mahometan, should say, Read attentively the Koran, and you will find a splendid testimony in favor of Jesus Christ ; who could thence conclude that he intended to assert that there is an obligation upon all Christians to read the Koran ?    How, then, is it possible from the words in question to conclude that there is a positive obligation upon all men to read the Bible ? Presbyterians hold that all obligations are clearly expressed in Scripture.    Then, on their own grounds, if all men are under obligation to read the Bible, it must be clearly expressed in the Scriptures, — say, as clearly as the obligations contained in the Ten Commandments.    But it is not so expressed ; and therefore, on their own ground, we have the right to conclude the obligation does not exist.

We have here disposed of the only text which Presbyterians adduce in support of the obligation in question. Other texts might have been adduced, but none which prove any thing beyond the utility of reading the Scriptures, — a point which, when coupled with the proper preparation and disposition on the part of the reader, we by no means contest. The precept of St. Paul to Timothy, " Attend to reading," 1 Tim. iv. 13, might perhaps be alleged; but it is obvious that St. Paul in that epistle is pointing out the duties of a clergyman, not of each individual Christian ; and we grant that reading in general, but especially the Scriptures, is not only useful, but necessary, for a clergyman.

What we have said is sufficient to disprove the positive obligation or duty of all men to read the Bible; but we go further,
and say that the admission of such an obligation is altogether at variance with the conduct of the Apostles, and the paternal and merciful providence of God in the government of men. If it had been obligatory upon all men to read the Scriptures, the Apostles would have written them in, or at least translated them into, all languages, which they did not do ; and we learn from St. Irenacus, that whole nations embraced Christianity, among whom not a copy of the Scriptures was to be found. The Apostles, indeed, composed a symbol or creed, and directed that every one should learn it by heart before baptism ; but the creed is short, and to learn it is comparatively an easy task ; whereas the Bible is a large volume, and it is no trifling labor to commit it all to memory. Moreover, for fifteen centuries, to obtain a Bible was not a little difficult, and few could go to the labor and expense of copying it. Who can calmly assert that there is a strict moral obligation upon all men even to learn reading ? To admit the assertion, that to read the Bible is strictly obligatory upon all, would be to transform the great mass of men into a set of prevaricators, and to impeach the goodness of God, who for fifteen hundred years left the world without that easy means of producing and obtaining books at cheap rates which we now possess.
Finally, reading the Scriptures can be maintained to be obligatory upon all men, only on the supposition, that without them it is impossible to attain to a knowledge of Christian faith and morals. But this supposition is inadmissible. Universal experience, from the times of the Apostles who gave us the Creed, proves that men do and can come to a knowledge of ihe duties and the mysteries of faith more easily, and more surely, by learning their catechism and listening to their pastors, than by reading the Bible, which does not and never was intended to contain a clear and succinct summary of Christian doctrine. " There is," says St. Francis of Sales, " the same difference between the word of God as contained in the Scriptures, and the same word as contained in the Catechism and the instructions of the pastor, that there is between a nut covered with its hard shell, and the same nut broken and laid open before you." For the mass of mankind, at least, the nut must be broken and laid open, before they can perceive and eat its delicious contents. The real obligation, the real necessity, is to learn, not the Bible so called, but the Christian doctrine, which can be done, and effectually, without ever handling a book.    Moreover, as a matter of fact, what the various Protestant sects call Christian doctrine is not learned from reading the Bible. The Presbyterian child learns Presbyterianism, not from the Bible, but from his Sunday-school teacher, his manual, and the instructions of his parents and his pastor. Even Unitarians, who discard all creeds and confessions, have their catechisms andmanuals, through which they indoctrinate their children in their dogmas against dogmas, their creed against creeds. No sect relies on reading the Bible alone as the means of obtaining or of imparting what it holds to be Christian doctrine. We say truly, then, universal experience is against the supposition in question, and the universal practice of all those who insist that reading the Bible is strictly obligatory on all Christians affords ample evidence, that, however convenient they may find it to make such a profession, they in reality believe no such thing.

3. We are now led to the third and last question, namely, Js the distribution of the Bible to all indiscriminately an effectual way of making the word of God dwell plentifully in all, and of attaining the end for which it was given ? We unhesitatingly say that it is not, and that mankind have witnessed no greater folly, since the Reformation, than the rage which has obtained, more especially from the early part of the present century, for distributing Bibles everywhere, in all places, to all sorts of persons, and in all languages. This rage, this mania, is really an impeachment of our Lord and of his blessed Apostles. The Apostles, the heralds of evangelical doctrine, never dreamed of a distribution of Bibles as a means of establishing and propagating Christianity. We have a detailed account of the missions of St. Paul throughout nearly the whole known world, yet nowhere do we find that he was anxious to procure copies of the Bible, and that he distributed them at random. The same blessed Apostle in his Epistles enters into many minute details of Christian life, but never .does a syllable escape him about copying and distributing Bibles. The Apostles taught and instructed the heathen and the faithful, not by books, but viva voce, or by preaching ; because they had received from' their Divine Master the solemn injunction to " preach the Gospel to every creature," and because the great work of the conversion and sanctification of men, in the ordinary state of things, can be successfully performed only by living men, and not by a dead book. Hence, the general maxim of St. Paul was, " Faith comes by hearing,"—fides ex auditu, — not by reading.    This is the process and economy of nature. It is little less than folly to suppose that science can be communicated and diffused without living teachers. The practice and common sense of mankind are opposed to the plan of learning without a teacher, from books alone ; and if sometimes adopted by a few through necessity, it is only at great expense and trouble. Those who do adopt it never become thoroughly learned ; their knowledge is never complete and exact; and they constantly expose themselves to disappointments and blunders, from which those who have had the benefit of the more usual and less defective methods are free. Only a few, again, can learn any thing by this method ; the bulk of mankind can learn nothing by it. Yet the difficulty of learning any thing positive in religion from the study of a book, especially of a book never intended to be a summary of doctrine, or a clear and appropriate introduction to religious truth, is much greater.

If the whole secret of propagating Christian doctrine consisted in the multiplication and distribution of copies of the Bible, and not in the oral teaching of divinely appointed instructors, would the Apostle have ever referred us to these stages in the Christian ministry, — " And some Christ gave to be apostles, and some prophets, and others evangelists, and others pastors and teachers, for the perfection of the saints, for the work of the ministry," Eph. iv. 11, 12 ? Would he not have said, And some Christ gave to be colporteurs, or distributors of Bibles, others buyers and sellers of Bibles, others transcribers or printers of Bibles, others paper or ink makers, others rag-merchants, and others rag-collectors ? for in this strange system, these are all valuable and necessary members of the sacred hierarchy.
It is not the mere hearing or reading of the word of God that avails us, but the proper understanding of it, and especially the fruit we gather from it. Scripture itself asserts, " Not the hearers of the law, but the doers thereof, shall be blessed before God." And there was more Christian virtue, piety, humility, disinterestedness, contempt of riches, Christian heroism, in those ages in which Bibles had not become as common as stones, than there is now. We read often reports of committees who congratulate themselves, that, within a year, or a shorter period, there have been more Bibles distributed than were ever transcribed or printed prior to the present century ; but we find none to read which speak of a corresponding growth in the Christian virtues.    Paper-makers, printers, and booksellers may find cause of gratulation in this multiplication and distribution of Bibles, but the Christian none, unless he sees men in the same proportion becoming meek and humble, charitable and self-denying, rising above the world while in it, and living only for God and heaven. We regret to say that there is little reason for supposing that a moral reformation at all keeps pace with the multiplication and distribution of Bibles. There are too many who can subscribe to the moral of what we know in one instance to have occurred. A pious Protestant lady offered a Bible to a plain common-sense man. " Begone with your Bibles," was his indignant reply. " Before you began distributing them, the boys would jump over my fence and steal my peaches ; now they break the fence down to steal more freely."

The Bible mania, indeed, makes "the word of God dwell more plentifully in all," but it is in the shape of dead letters, covered with ink, and buried in paper. If this be the " dwelling of the word " which the blessed Apostle meant, we have undoubtedly reached the last degree of perfection ; but if he spoke of another dwelling of the word of God, we may, for aught that appears, have fallen back not a little. We do not find among these Bible maniacs any who seem inclined to renounce every thing on earth, to deny themselves, take up their cross, and follow Christ. We have not heard of many who have sold all they had, that they might buy the pearl of evangelical poverty. We read of St. Anthony, that, on hearing these words, " Go sell all thou hast, and give to the poor," he immediately put this lesson of evangelical perfection in practice. We have yet to learn of similar instances as the effect of the distribution of Bibles. One thing we know, that many there are who seldom or never take a Bible in their hand, who yet have constantly in their minds, in their hearts, and in their daily life the words of St. Paul, " Whether you eat or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all things for the glory of God " ; and we hazard nothing in saying that these are they in whom the word of God dwells plentifully, even though they know not how to read ; and we cannot be blamed for preferring these to the proud and worldly-minded, though able to boast of a house full of Bibles.
It were well if sterility of good works were the only consequence of the promiscuous distribution of the word of God. But this distribution is not only inadequate to the production of good, but it has been and cannot fail to be the occasion, if
not the direct cause, of serious and enormous evils. A thing may he in itself good and holy, and yet not be fitting for all, — nay, even be most prejudicial to those who are only prepared to abuse it. Hence, the Church, while revering the word, and preserving it with an affection and fidelity of which Protestants can form no conception, has yet always protested against this Protestant mania, for mania it is. She obeys the words of Christ, " Give not that which is holy unto dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine " ; and this distribution of Bibles indiscriminately to all sorts of persons, whether prepared to receive and read it with the proper dispositions, with due reverence for the word of God, or not, is a flagrant violation of the precept contained in these words of our Lord. The Scriptures are holy, a treasure of infinite value to the Christian Church ; but they are profitable only to, such as are initiated into and well grounded in Christianity ; to others, they are in general poisonous and destructive. From the reading of the Bible by those not prepared to profit by it has resulted the wildest and maddest fanaticism ; and the " thousand and one " sects which have afflicted the Christian world since Luther, and which every right-minded man must deeply deplore, owe their origin to no other cause. People reading the Bible have, as St. Paul complains, 1 Tim. i. 7, learned to assume the title of Doctors of the Law, though " understanding neither the things they say, nor whereof they affirm." Many by this reading have lost their faith ; and, indeed, if the apparent contradictions found in the Bible give no little trouble even to the learned, and have been the occasion of voluminous commentaries, what temptations must they not offer to a mere sciolist ? Voltaire thought there was no more effectual way of spreading infidelity than by the Bible explained in his own way ; and the grand means on which unbelievers of our day rely for spreading their creed of unbelief is the same. Deprive them of these apparent contradictions and inconsistencies, of the difficulties and objections which they find or suppose they find in the Scriptures themselves, and they would have very few arguments with which to perplex the unlearned and captivate the conceited and vain. And what shall we say of the imminent danger young persons particularly must run of shipwrecking their purity and chastity, when they read the impure actions related in the Old Testament in all the simplicity of primitive manners ? Alas ! they need not so much to inflame their passions, and it will be well if they escape without approving even in theory some crimes which they find to have been committed by persons eminent, in general, for their good qualities and deeds ! We could easily enlarge on this topic, but forbear, lest we fall into the very inconvenience we are speaking against. It is, however, a topic well worthy the serious consideration of those who affect to be so shocked with certain passages in Dens's Theology, not intended for general reading, but simply to prepare the moral physician for treating the moral diseases which, unhappily, he is but too sure to encounter in the practice of his profession. Looking to the little good and the enormous evils which result from this indiscriminate distribution of Bibles, to the character of the book itself, and its utter unfitness to serve as the summary of Christian doctrine or as the introduction to religious truth, its obscurities and acknowledged difficulties, many of which baffle the skill of the ablest and most learned commentators, and the ease and readiness with which the unlearned and unstable wrest it to their own destruction, we are forced to conclude that a more ineffectual and absurd way of making the word of God dwell plentifully in all, and to answer the end for which it was designed, than this proposed by Protestants, could not easily be devised.
But we come at length to the last two articles of the chapter on the Scriptures. We give them together, for they both mean the same thing, and together form a suitable keystone to the arch of Presbyterianism.    They are as follows : —
" Art. IX. The infallible rule of interpretation of Scripture is the Scripture itself; and therefore, when there is a question about the true and full sense of any Scripture (which is not manifold, but one), it may be searched and known from other places that speak more clearly. X. The Supreme Judge, by whom all controversies of religion are to be determined, and all decrees of councils, opinions of ancient writers, doctrines of men, and private spirits are to be examined, and in whose sentence we are to rest, can be no other than the Holy Spirit speaking in the Scriptures.

" Acts xv. 15. And to this agree the words of the prophets, as it is written. John v. 46. For had ye believed Moses ye would have believed me, for he wrote of me. Matt. xxii. 29, 31. Ye do err, not knowing the Scriptures nor the power of God. Eph. iv. 20.    Acts xxviii. 25."
Singular articles these ! Reduced to plain English, they are simply, Scripture interprets itself, and God is the supreme judge of religious controversies.    The proofs in the notes are in keeping with the assertions in the text. They have, however, the merit, if not of proving the assertions, at least that of disproving them. They show us our blessed Lord reasoning from the Scriptures against the Jews, and in his own person giving them an example and establishing the necessity of a living tribunal, a speaking judge, for the interpretation of Scripture and the determining of controversies of religion. So far as the example of our Lord and the occasion he found for correcting the Jews in their understanding of the Scriptures can count for any thing, they establish the contrary of what they were brought to prove. It is remarkable how difficult it is for Presbyterians to quote any Scriptural authority in their defence which does not make against them. There is a Providence in this, cheering to the faithful, but which should make Presbyterians fear and tremble.

But, in these articles, we have the secret arrived at by our Presbyterian divines as the result of their long and laborious researches. It is now laid open before us. Come, ye men of the Old School, of the New School, Cumberland and all other species of Presbyterians, ye Congregationalists, Baptists, Methodists, Unitarians, Universalists, and hearken to this lesson of profoundest wisdom ! Why in vain dispute and quarrel, why worry and devour each other, about the various matters which separate you one from another ? Let the Bible decide. Call forthwith a " world's convention " of all the sects ; let them assemble ; let the Bible be placed reverently on a stand ; let all keep silence ; the book will open its mouth, utter a sentence, and all your controversies will be settled, and ye will all bow down in meek and humble submission. How simple and easy ! What a pity men should not have discovered this admirable method of settling controversies, before the Westminster divines ! Alas ! the controversy between sectarians is precisely as to what the decision of the Bible is !
Presbyterians, however, have been driven to adopt this rule by the necessity they were under of steering between two formidable sand-bars. If they acknowledged in the Church an always living and divinely instituted tribunal for the determination of controversies, it was all over with them ; for that tribunal existed at the birth of Presbyterianism, and had condemned it; and on the other hand, they were ashamed to avow, in just so many words, that every one interprets the Bible as he thinks proper. If the first, they condemned themselves, and must, to be consistent, return to the Church ; if
the  second,  then  they  must  adopt  an  absurdity too  gross even for them to swallow.   What, then, could they do ?   Mystify themselves and others with high-sounding words, meaning nothing.    They must say, Scripture interprets itself, and the Holy Ghost is the supreme judge of controversies.    But as the Holy Ghost decides, according to them, only as speaking in the  Scriptures, and as the  Bible has never been heard to utter a single syllable, they gain nothing, but are ultimately reduced to the rule, Each one understands the Scriptures as he chooses, — the great fundamental principle of Protestantism, and nearly the only one in which all Protestants are able to agree.      So, after all, in trying to avoid one sand-bar,  they stick fast on  the  other, or as one of our former legislators would express it, " In keeping clear of Skiller, they run foul of Clarybogus."

We do not intend, on this occasion, to give the various and satisfactory proofs of the necessity or of the fact of a living tribunal in the Christian Church for determining religious controversies. But we may say, the tribunal alleged by Presbyterians is obviously no tribunal at all; and the fact, that they are ashamed to avow it, and seek in every possible way to disguise it, is a sufficient refutation of the principle of private interpretation, or, if not, it has already been several times and amply refuted in the pages of this journal, as well as elsewhere. It will suffice for our present purpose to adduce a couple of edifying commentaries on the Presbyterian rule, supplied by the very volume before us.
In the Form of Government, p. 364, we read, — " lo the General Assembly belongs the power of deciding in all controversies respecting doctrine and discipline, of reproving, warning, or bearing testimony against error in doctrine, or immorality in practice, in any church, presbytery, or synod, . . . . . of suppressing schismatical contentions and disputations"; and on page 378, that the Presbyterian minister who preaches at the ordination of a candidate is to propose to him the following questions : — " Do you believe the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments to be the word of God, the only infallible rule of faith and practice ? Do you sincerely receive and adopt the Confession of Faith of this Church as containing the
system of doctrine taught in the Scriptures ?.....    Do you promise subjection to your brethren in the Lord ? "    To all these questions the candidate answers in the affirmative. Well done, O ye learned divines !    These lessons of submission given to the candidate are admirable ; these enactments to enforce obedience to the decisions of the General Assembly are truly edifying ! But, dear friends, how could you so soon and so completely forget and abandon your cherished and favorite doctrine ? How could you write one thing in the beginning of your book, and give it such a flat denial in the end ? How could you establish one principle in the Confession, and a contrary principle in the Form of Government 9 Indeed, most amiable doctors, you hardly treat us fairly. Which are we to believe, the Confession or the Form of Government ? In one place you tell us the Scripture and the Scripture alone can interpret itself; and now in another, instead of the Scriptures, you give us the decisions of the General Assembly. You told us that the supreme judge in controversies can be none other than the Holy Spirit ; and now, when controversies arise among you, instead of having recourse to " the Holy Spirit speaking in the Scriptures," you modestly invest the General Assembly with " the power of deciding all controversies." In the Confession you solemnly assert that " the decrees of councils, the opinions of ancient writers, the doctrines of men, and private spirits," are to be brought only before the bar of the supreme judge, " the Holy Spirit speaking in the Scriptures" ; and now you summon us before the bar of the General Assembly, that is to say, before a couple of hundred of Presbyterian ministers, and a like number of Presbyterian elders ! You were telling us, a moment ago, that the Holy Spirit speaks only through the Scriptures ; and now you tell us, that he speaks through the Presbyterian elders of the United States ! Really, gentlemen, this obliviousness on your part is too bad, altogether too bad. Alas for the poor candidate ! How deplorable is his fate ! After having received the assurance of having no other interpreter of Scripture than Scripture itself, and no other judge but the Holy Spirit speaking in the Scriptures, he now finds that all was a delusion, and that he must tamely promise subjection to his brethren, and follow their decision, or be ignominiously dismissed and branded for life.

Alas ! how many lies does that first lie render necessary ! Thus it is that error must necessarily stamp all its proceedings with contradiction and lie. Mentha est iniquitas sibi. Protestants, and Presbyterians in particular, were at first most obstreporous against all authority ; for this was necessary in order to be able to wrest a portion of the faithful from their legitimate pastors.    But having done this, and finding that no shadow of government or society was possible on the principles they at first set up, they turn round, and with admirable coolness deny and reject those very principles without which they had never existed, and institute in their novel and sell-constituted tribunals the most intolerable tyranny, in the place of the paternal authority they threw off, and which had received the traditions of all Christian nations, and the promise oi the Divine  protection  and guidance.    But it was not to be supposed  that   such   tribunals, such  supreme  judges,  would command any respect, or much submission.    Dissent breeds dissent.     The first dissenters authorize by precept and example the new dissenters.    What right had you to dissent from the authority to which you were born subject, which we have not to dissent from you ?    Hence, the decisions of these tribunals and judges are followed only so long as force, or selt-interest, money, or social position are present to back them ; when not supported by such or like considerations, they are mere cobwebs.    Hence, Protestantism is everywhere cut up into  divisions, sects, parties, and factions, too numerous to count, and which serve only to worry and devour each other, and to place in bold contrast the majestic and compact unity of the Catholic Church.