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Thornwell's Answer to Dr. Lynch

Brownson’s Quarterly Review, April, 1848

Art. IV. The Apocryphal Books of the Old Testament proved to be Corrupt additions to the Word of God. – The Arguments of Romanists from the Infallibility of the Church and the Testimonies of the Fathers in Behalf of the Apocrypha discussed and refuted. By James H. Thornwell. New York: Leavitt, Trow, & Co. Boston: Charles Tappan. 1845. 16mo. 417.

Sometime in 1841, Mr. Thornwell, a Presbyterian minister, and "Professor of Sacred Literature and Evidences of Christianity in the South-Carolina College," published, anonymously, in a Baltimore journal, a brief essay against the divine inspiration of those books of the Old Testament which Protestants exclude from the canon of Scripture. To this essay, as subsequently reprinted with the author’s name, the Rev. Dr. Lynch, of Charleston, S. C., replied, in a series of letters addressed to Mr. Thornwell, through the columns of The Catholic Miscellany. The volume before us is Mr. Thornwell’s rejoinder to Dr. Lynch, and contains, in an Appendix, the original essay, and the substance of Dr. Lynch’s reply to it. The rejoinder consists of twenty-nine letters, which cover nearly the whole ground of controversy between Catholics and Protestants, and, though written in a Presbyterian spirit, they are respectable for ability and learning. The work, though nothing surprising, is, upon the whole, above the general average of publications of its class.

The purpose of the essay was to "assert and endeavor to prove that Tobit, Judith, the additions to the Book of Esther, Wisdom, Ecclesiasticus, Baruch, with the Epistle of Jeremiah, the Song of the Three Children, the Story of Susannah, the Story of Bel and the Dragon, and the First and Second Books of Maccabees are neither sacred nor canonical, and of course of no more authority in the Church of God than Seneca’s Letters or Tully’s Offices." (pp. 339, 340.) In the present work, the author attempts to maintain the same thesis, and refute the objections urged by Dr. Lynch against it. He professes on his very title-page to have proved the books enumerated "to be corrupt additions to the word of God," and to have discussed and refuted "the arguments of Romanists from the infallibility of the Church and the testimonies of the Fathers in their behalf." The question very naturally arises, Has he done this? Has he proved that these books are uninspired, as he must have done, if he has proved them to be corrupt additions to the word of God; and has he refuted the arguments of Catholics, or rather of Dr. Lynch, in their behalf?

The arguments which Dr. Lynch adduces for these books are drawn from the infallibility of the Church and the testimony of the Fathers. If the Church is infallible, the testimony of the Fathers is of subordinate importance, for the infallibility alone suffices for the faithful; if the Church is not infallible, it is of still less consequence what the Fathers testify; for then all faith is out of the question, both for Catholics and all others. We may, therefore, waive all consideration, for the present, of the argument for the deutero-canonical books drawn from the testimony of the Fathers, and confine ourselves to that drawn from the infallibility of the Church. The argument from infallibility must, of course, be refuted, before the author can claim to have refuted Dr. Lynch, or to have proved his general thesis, that the books in question are "corrupt additions to the word of God."

The Catholic Church, undeniably, includes these books in her canon of Scripture, and commands her children to receive them as the word of God. This is certain, and the author concedes it; for he adduces it as a proof of her "intolerable arrogance." If she is infallible in declaring the word of God, as all Catholics hold, these books are certainly inspired Scripture, and rightfully placed in the canon. This is the argument from infallibility; and it is evident to every one who understands what it is to refute an argument that it can be refuted only by disproving the infallibility, or, what is the same thing, proving the fallibility, of the Church. To prove the Church fallible, moreover, it is not enough to refute the arguments by which Catholics are accustomed to prove her infallibility; for a doctrine may be true, and yet the arguments adduced in proof of it be unsound and inconclusive. It will, therefore, avail the author but little to refute our arguments for he infallibility, unless he refutes the infallibility itself; for so long as he is unable to say positively that the Church is fallible, he is unable to refute the argument from her infallibility. It may still be true that she is infallible, and if she is, the books are not uninspired compositions, but infallibly the word of God.

Mr. Thornwell, who regards himself as an able and sound logician, appears to have some consciousness of this, and indeed to concede it. Accordingly, he devotes a third of his whole volume to disproving the infallibility of the Church, or rather, to proving her fallibility. "I have insisted," he says in his Preface, "largely on the dogma of infallibility, – more largely, perhaps, than my readers may think consistent with the general design of my performance, – because I regard this as the prop and bulwark of all the abominations of the Papacy." (P. 8.)

But to prove the fallibility of the Church, or to disprove her infallibility, is a grave undertaking, and attended with serious difficulties. The Church cannot be tried except by some standard, and it is idle to attempt to convict her on a fallible authority. If the conviction is obtained on a fallible authority, the conviction itself is fallible, and it, instead of the Church, may be the party in the wrong. The Professor cannot take a single step, cannot even open his case, unless he has an infallible tribunal before which to summon the Church, – some infallible standard by which to test her infallibility or fallibility. But before what infallible tribunal can he cite her? What infallible authority has he on which he can demand her conviction?

The only possible way in which the fallibility of the Church can be proved is by convicting her of having actually erred on some point on which she claims to be infallible. But it is evident, that, in order to be able to convict her of having erred on a given point, we must be able to say infallibly what is truth or error on that point. Clearly, then, the Professor cannot commence his action, much less gain it, unless he has ana authority which pronounces infallibly on the points on which he seeks to convict her of having actually erred. But what authority has he? Unhappily, he does not inform us, and does not appear to have recognized the necessity on his part of having any authority. He sets forth, formally, no authority, designates no court, specifies no law, lays down no principles. This is a serious inconvenience, and affects both his legal and his logical attainments. His argument, let him do his best, must be minus its major proposition; and from the minor alone have always understood that it is impossible to conclude anything.

Mr. Thornwell denies the infallibility of the Church, and he recognizes no infallible authority in any one of the sects, including even his own. He has, then no authority which he can allege, but the authority of reason, and his own private judgment. His own private judgment is of no weight, and cannot be adduced in a public discussion. The authority of reason we acknowledge to be infallible in her own province; but her province is restricted to the natural order, and she has no jurisdiction in the supernatural order, to which the Church professes to belong. The Church has the right to be tried by her peers. Reason is not, and cannot be, the peer of the supernatural, and is totally unable, in so far as the Church lies within the supernatural order, to pronounce any judgment concerning her infallibility one way or the other.

Reason, undoubtedly, knows that God is, and that he can neither deceive nor be deceived. It knows, therefore, if he appoints the Church, commissions her, as his organ, to declare his word, that she must declare it infallibly; for then it is he himself that declares in her declaration, and if she could either deceive or be deceived, he himself would either deceive or be deceived. If, then, reason finds sufficient or satisfactory grounds for believing that God has appointed or instituted the Church to declare his word, to teach all nations to observe all things whatsoever he has revealed, it pronounces her infallible, and acknowledges its obligation to receive, without any questioning, whatever she teaches.

Reason, again, knows that God cannot be in contradiction with himself, and therefore, since both the natural order and the supernatural are from him, that he cannot establish principles in the one repugnant to those established in the other. On the authority of reason, then, we may always assert that he cannot teach one thing in the natural order and its contradictory in the supernatural order. If, then, it be clearly established, that the Church, on matters on which she claims to teach infallibly, teaches what is in contradiction either to the supernatural or the natural order, it is certain that she is fallible. But as reason cannot go out of the order of nature, we can on its authority establish the fallibility of the Church only on the condition of convicting her of having actually contradicted some law or principle of the natural order. If the Church, in other words, contradict reason, reason is competent to conclude against her, but not when she merely transcends reason; for what is above reason may be true, but what is against reason cannot be.

It follows from this that the authority of reason in the case before us is purely negative, and that the Professor can conclude from it against the Church only on condition that he proves that she actually contradicts it. But it is necessary even here to bear in mind that the natural can no more contradict the supernatural than the supernatural the natural. When the motives of credibility have convinced reason that the Church teaches by supernatural authority, her teaching is as authoritative as any principle of reason itself, and may be cited to prove that what is alleged against her as a principle of reason is not a principle of reason, with no less force than the alleged principle itself can be cited to prove that she contradicts reason. The Professor must, then, in order to prove her fallibility, adduce a case, not of apparent contradict, but of real contradiction, – a case in which what she teaches must evidently contradict on evident principle of reason, – so evident that it is clear that to deny it would be to deny reason itself.

The position, then, which the Professor must take and maintain, in order to establish his thesis, is, that the Church, in her teaching on matters on which she claims to teach infallibly, has taught or teaches what contradicts an evident and undeniable principle of reason. This he must do before he can prove the fallibility of the Church, and he must prove the fallibility of the Church before he can refute the argument drawn from it for the books enumerated. Has he proved this? Unhappily, he does not appear to have understood that this was at all necessary, or to have suspected that it was only by proving the Church to be against reason that he could conclude her fallibility. He does not appear to have known that there are and can be no questions debatable between Catholics and Protestants but such as pertain exclusively to the province of reason. He labors under the hallucination, that he has something besides the reason common to all men which he may oppose to us, that he has the revelation of Almighty God, and that he is at liberty to attempt to convict the Church, not on reason alone, but also on the word of God. This would be ridiculous, if the matter were not so grave as to make it deplorable. He has no word of God to cite against us, and if he cites the Holy Scriptures at all, he must cite them either in the sense of the Church, or as simple historical documents; because it is only in the sense of the Church that we acknowledge them to be inspired. We can cite them as inspired Scripture against him, as an argumentum ad hominem; for he holds them to be inspired Scripture as interpreted by private judgment. But he cannot against us; for the argument would not be ad hominem, unless cited in the sense of the Church, since it is only in that sense, that, on our own principles, they are the word of God.

The fact is, Mr. Thornwell from first to last forgets in his argument that we are as far from admitting his authority as he is from admitting ours. He writes under the impression, that he has the true Christian doctrine, and is invested with ample authority to define what is, and what is not, the word of God. He assumes his Presbyterianism to be true, and when he has proved that Catholicity contradicts it, he concludes at once that Catholicity is false. But Presbyterianism is only his private judgment, and therefore of no authority. By what right does he erect his private judgment into a criterion of truth and falsehood, assume that it is infallible, and proceed to pronounce ex cathedra on the revealed word of God? We cannot recognize his authority as sovereign pontiff, unless he brings us credentials from heaven, duly signed and witnessed. His assumption we cannot admit. He is confessedly fallible, and his decisions we cannot even entertain. He does not come to us duly commissioned by Almighty God to teach us his word; he is simply a man, with no authority in the premises which may not be claimed and exercised by every other man as well as by himself. In an argument with Catholics he can be only a man, and is at liberty to adopt no line of argument that would not be equally proper in the case of a pagan, Mahometan, or any other infidel.

Protestant controversialists are exceedingly prone to forget this. They assume that they have the word of God, that they know and believe what God has revealed, and that they have in their opinions a standard by which to try the Church. Yet they claim to be reasoners, and tell us that we have surrendered our reason! But whether the Church be or be not commissioned to declare the word of God, it is certain that they are not. Certain is it, that, if she is not authorized to declare it, no one else is; and equally certain is it, that no one not so authorized has any right to adduce in an argument any thing he takes to be the word of God, save by the sufferance or consent of his opponents. It is a grave mistake to suppose that there is any other common ground between us and our adversaries than that of reason. It will not do for our adversaries to suppose, that, because we hold to the inspiration of the Scriptures, they may allege them in their own sense against us; for we admit their inspiration only on the authority, and in the sense, of the Church. On her authority, and in the sense in which she defines their doctrines, we hold them to be the word of God; but in no other sense, and on no other ground. Independently of her authority and interpretations, there are no inspired Scriptures for us. This fact must never be lost sight of, and it would save Protestants an immense deal of labor, if they would keep it in mind, and govern themselves accordingly. If they cite the Bible against us, on any authority or in any sense but that of the Church, it is not for us the word of God, but simply their private opinion, by which we are not and cannot be bound. Among ourselves, who admit the authority of the Church, and therefore the inspiration of the Scriptures, it is lawful, on a point on which the actual teaching of the Church is matter of inquiry, to appeal to the written word, as also to the Fathers and Doctors of the Church, and also to the analogies of the faith; but it is never lawful for those out of the Church, denying her authority, to make a like appeal against us; for the authority to which we appeal is resolvable into the authority of the Church, which they deny.

The rule we here insist upon is that of common sense and common justice, and rests for its authority on the principle, that no man has the right to assume in his argument the point that is in question. We ourselves cite the Scriptures against our adversaries, but always either ad hominem, – because they, though we do not, admit their inspiration independently of the authority of the Church, – or as simple historical documents, whose authenticity and authority as such documents, but not as inspired writings, reason is competent to determine. But we never assume our Church and her definitions as the authority on which to convict those without of error; for to do so would be a sheer begging of the question. Undoubtedly, if our Church is right, all her adversaries are wrong. It needs no argument to prove that. We, therefore, take our stand in the argument, either on what our adversaries concede, or on the common reason of mankind, and attempt to prove from the one or the other, or both, that every one is bound to believe and obey the Church. Protestants must not expect us to allow them more than we claim for ourselves. They may need more in order to make out their case; but we are not aware that they have any right to special privileges, or to exemption from the common obligations of reason and justice. As there are no concessions of ours which can avail them, they must in their controversies with us take their stand on the reason common to all men, and, since common to all, alike theirs and ours. They must bring their action at common law, not on a special statute. Then they must restrict themselves to those questions which come within the jurisdiction of reason, and which she is competent to decide without appeal. Then they must waive all questions which pertain to the subject-matter of revelation; for these all undeniably lie in the supernatural order, and therefore without the province of reason.

We frankly concede that Mr. Thornwell has proved that Catholicity is not Presbyterianism, and that, if Presbyterianism is the revelation of God, Catholicity is not. But this amounts to nothing; Presbyterianism is neither proved to be nor conceded to be Christianity. He cannot, therefore, assume it against us. We concede him not one inch of Christian ground on which to set his foot. We demur to every argument he adduces or attempts to adduce from the convictions or prejudices of his sect, or from his own conceptions of the word of God. We listen to no arguments, we entertain no objections, we plead to no charges, not drawn from the common reason of mankind. We must, therefore, beg him to descend from his tripod, and meet us as a man with no authority but that which belongs to the reason of every man.

We must, in view of this state of the case, eliminate from Mr. Thornwell’s arguments against infallibility, as not to be entertained, all that he urges on the authority of his own religious convictions or prejudices, and confine ourselves simply to what he adduces on the simple authority of reason. These last, all that is legitimately adduced, consist of an attempted refutation of Dr. Lynch’s argument for the infallibility of the Church, and certain philosophical, historical, and moral objections alleged against the Church.

We might well pass over Mr. Thornwell’s attempt to refute Dr. Lynch’s argument for infallibility, because, if successful, it would accomplish nothing to his purpose. The argument he has to refute is the argument from the infallibility of the Church, not the argument for it: for the question is not on believing that infallibility, but on denying it. It may, as we have said, be true, and yet the arguments by which we attempt to prove it be unsound and inconclusive. The defect of proof is a good reason for not believing, but it is not always an adequate reason for denying. The thesis the Professor seeks to maintain requires him to deny the infallibility of the Church, or to assert her fallibility, and therefore the burden of proof devolves on him. He asserts that the disputed books are corrupt additions to the word of God, which he cannot possibly prove without disproving the infallibility of the Church, which declares them to be inspired Scripture. But he claims to have won a victory over Dr. Lynch, and his friends have bound the laurel around his brows. We are, therefore, disposed to subject his claim to a slight examination, and to inquire if his shouts have not been a little premature, and if, after all, the victory does not remain with his opponent. If he has succeeded, he has gained nothing for his thesis; but if he has failed, we can conclude against it at once, at least so far as he is concerned.

Mr. Thornwell states Dr. Lynch’s general argument for the disputed books to be, –

"Whatever the pastors of the Church of Rome declare to be true must be infallibly certain:

"That the Apocrypha [the books enumerated] were inspired, the pastors of the Church of Rome declare to be true:

"Therefore it must be infallibly certain."

This is stated in Mr. Thornwell’s language, not in Dr. Lynch’s, and is by no means so well expressed as it might be; but let that pass. Substituting the names of the books alleged by Mr. Thornwell to be corrupt additions to the word of God for the term Apocrypha, we are willing to accept. To this argument, which he has shaped to suit the objections he wishes to bring against it, Mr. Thornwell’s first objection is, that it is "vitiated by the ambiguity of the middle." The words "pastors of the Church," may be understood either universally, particularly, or distributively, – to mean the whole body of the pastors, some of them, and every one individually.

Ambiguity of the middle is where the words are taken in one sense in the major, and in another sense in the minor; but where they are taken in the same sense in both premises, although in themselves susceptible of several meanings, there is no ambiguity of the middle. In the argument as stated, the words, pastors, &c., are, in themselves considered, susceptible of the senses alleged, but as used in the argument they are tied down to one sense. The rule of construction is, to understand all words used in a general or universal sense, unless there be some reason, expressed or implied, in the context or the nature of the subject, for not doing so. There is, in the present case, no such reason in either premise, and therefore we must take the words generally, or universally, in both, – for the whole body of pastors. If so, there is no ambiguity of the middle.

But Mr. Thornwell asserts that Dr. Lynch does use the words in the three different senses mentioned. He accuses him of meaning by them, at one time, the whole body of pastors collected or assembled in council, at another time, a part only, and finally, every one individually; and alleges as proof, the fact, that in his Letter he predicates infallibility, 1. of the whole body of pastors in their collective capacity, 2. of the Council of Trent, in which only a part were personally assembled, and 3. of each single teacher or missionary.

1. That Dr. Lynch, when he predicates infallibility of the body of pastors in their collective capacity, means the whole body, takes the words, pastors, &c., universally, is conceded, but that he means the whole body assembled in council we deny. He speaks of them as a body of individuals in their collective capacity, not as a collected or congregated body; and that he does not mean the body of pastors assembled in council is evident from the fact, that he contends that the pastors of the Church had decided the question of the inspiration of the books in dispute long before the Council of Trent, since, to do so, they did not need to assemble in a general council. Thus he says expressly, – "The doctrines of the Catholic Church can be known from the universal and concordant teaching of her pastors, even when her bishops have not assembled in a general council and embodied those doctrines in a list of decrees." (pp. 371, 371.) It is evident, then, that Dr. Lynch holds the pastors of the Church to be a body of individuals, to have a collective capacity, and the faculty of teaching infallibly in that capacity, even when not congregated. If Mr. Thornwell had recognized a difference between collective and collected, or congregated, he would easily have surmounted this part of his difficulty, without any foreign aid.

2. The acts of the Holy Council of Trent, touching faith and morals, Dr. Lynch unquestionably holds to be infallible, not because he predicates infallibility of a part of the body of pastors, but because they were the acts of the whole Church represented in it, or at least made so by subsequent adoption, as is evident enough from his language. The proof, therefore, that he takes the words in a partitive sense, is inadequate.

3. That each single pastor teaches infallibly in his collective capacity, as "member" of the body of pastors, is conceded, but that he does so individually or in his individual capacity is denied; for in his individual capacity he cannot teach at all. Dr. Lynch speaks of his teaching infallibly only in his capacity as member of the body. As member of the body, the only sense in which he is a teacher at all, he participates of its infallibility, and teaches by its authority, and infallibly, not because he is individually infallible, but because it is infallible. Consequently in representing the single teacher as teaching infallibly, Dr. Lynch does not use the words pastors, & c., in a distributive sense.

Mr. Thornwell is unfortunate in his proofs, notwithstanding he had shaped his statement of the argument with special reference to them. He fails to substantiate his objection of "ambiguity of the middle," and consequently all that he says, which is founded on it, falls to the ground. The beautiful argument he had constructed to prove that a Catholic can never know when and where toe find the infallible authority on which he had expended so much labor, and lavished so many rare ornaments, falls to pieces through default of a foundation. Decidedly, it is an inconvenience to build without any thing to build with or to build on. It is worse than being compelled to make bricks without straw.

Mr. Thornwell, after his objection to the form of the argument, proceeds to deny and to refute its major, namely, the infallibility of the Church. His first effort is to refute Dr. Lynch’s argument for it. Dr. Lynch contends that "we cannot be called on to believe any proposition without adequate proof;" that "when Almighty God designed to inspire the works contained in the Holy Scriptures, he intended they should be believed to be inspired;" and that "therefore there does exist some adequate proof." Thus far all is evident enough, and the Professor brings no objection to what is alleged. We may presume it, then, as conceded, that there does exist some adequate proof of their inspiration, that is to say, some authority competent to declare the fact. What is it? "It must be," says Dr. Lynch, "a body of individuals to whom, in their collective capacity, God has given authority to make an unerring decision on the subject." It must be such a body, because it can be nothing else. This body is composed of the pastors of the Catholic Church. Therefore the pastors of the Catholic Church have authority to make an unerring decision, that is, have infallible authority to declare the word of God.

Mr. Thornwell does not deny, that, if such a body exists, it is the pastors of the Roman Catholic Church. On this point he raises no question, and we may regard him as conceding it. He denies the necessity of any such body as Dr. Lynch asserts. He objects, first, to the form of the argument by which Dr. Lynch undertakes to prove it. t he argument, he says, sins by an imperfect enumeration of particulars. It is a destructive disjunctive conditional, which must contain in the major all the suppositions which can be conceived to be true, and in the minor destroy all but one. But Dr. lynch has not included all such suppositions in his major, and therefore, conceding that he has destroyed in the minor all he has enumerated save one, he is not entitled to his conclusion. Dr. Lynch has enumerated four methods: – 1. Every individual, on the strength of his own private examination, is to decide for himself, – private judgment; 2. Every individual, is to receive books as inspired, or reject them as uninspired, according to the decisions of such persons as he judges qualified by their erudition and sound judgment to determine the question, – the judgment of the learned; 3. We must take on the inspiration of Scripture from some individual whom God has commissioned to announce this fact to the world; or 4. From a body of individuals to whom, in their collective capacity, God has given authority to make an unerring decision on the subject. But a fifth supposition is possible, says the Professor, namely, "God himself by his Eternal Spirit may condescend to be the teacher of men, and enlighten their understandings to perceive in the Scriptures themselves infallible marks of their inspiration." This supposition Dr. Lynch has "entirely overlooked," "strangely suppressed," and therefore cannot even by destroying the first three suppositions conclude the fourth.

But Dr. Lynch has not "entirely overlooked," "strangely suppressed," this fifth supposition, but expressly mentions it, and gives his reason for not including it in the number of supposable methods. Mr. Thornwell has generously furnished us the evidence of this. After enumerating the four methods stated, Dr. Lynch says (Appendix, p. 359): – "I might perhaps add a fifth method; that each one be informed what books are inspired by his private spirit. But I omit it, as, were it true, it would be superfluous, if not a criminal intrusion on the province of God would have reserved to himself, to attempt to prove or disprove, when our duty would be simply to await in patience the revelation to each particular individual. You are not a member of the Society of Friends, and your essay is not an expose of the teachings of your private spirit, but an effort to appeal to argument." With this passage before his eyes, we cannot understand how the Presbyterian minister could assert taht Dr. Lynch entirely overlooked this fifth method, for undeniably the Catholic Doctor means by the private spirit precisely the same thing the Presbyterian does by God condescending to teach men by his Eternal Spirit. Moreover, the reasons assigned by Dr. Lynch for not including it in the list of supposable methods are conclusive, at least till answered. These reasons are two: – 1. That, if assumed, all argument would be foreclosed, either as superfluous or as criminal; and 2. Mr. Thornwell evidently rejects it, because he appeals to argument, and therefore against him it cannot be necessary to include it. These are solid reasons, and Mr. Thornwell should have met them before accusing Dr. Lynch of having entirely overlooked the method of interior illumination, and especially before insisting upon its being supposable.

Mr. Thornwell is apparently disposed to maintain that this fifth method is the one actually adopted, but this he is not at liberty to do. The method is private, not public, and cannot be appealed to in a public debate. In a public debate, the appeal must always be to a public authority, that is, to an authority common to both parties. If the authority to which the appeal is to be made is private, there can be no public debate; if private, interior, immediate, as must be the teachings of the spirit, there can be no argument. Argument in such a case would be superfluous and even criminal. When, therefore, a man resorts, on a given question, to argument, and to public argument, he necessarily assumes that the authority which is to determine the question is public, and denies it to be private. Mr. Thornwell in his essay made his appeal to argument, and wrote his essay to prove that the question he raised is to be settled, not by the private spirit, but by public facts, arguments, and authority. He therefore cannot fall back on the private spirit. Having elected public authority, he must abide by it. If he cannot now fall back on the private spirit, he cannot allege it as a supposable method; and if he cannot so allege it, he cannot accuse Dr. Lynch’s argument of sinning by an imperfect enumeration of particulars, because it omits it.

Mr. Thornwell, furthermore, is very much affected by Dr. Lynch’s supposed temerity in restricting the number of supposable methods to the four enumerated. He grows very eloquent, and manifests no little pious horror at what he calls an effort to set bounds to Omnipotence. All this is very well, but he himself excludes the method of private teaching, by writing his book to prove, on other grounds, that the books in question are uninspired, and he does not even attempt to suggest an additional method. Nobody, unless it be himself, seeks to limit Omnipotence; nobody, to our knowledge, denies that Almighty God might have adopted the private method, if he had chosen to do so. The question is not, as is evident from the whole train of Dr. Lynch’s reasoning, on abstract possibilities, but on what is or is not possible in hac providentia. Nobody pretends that the private spirit is not supposable because it is metaphysically impossible, but it is not supposable because incompatible with other things which we know must be supposed, and which Mr. Thornwell undeniably does suppose.

The alleged fifth method not being supposable, unless Mr. Thornwell chooses to condemn himself for attempting to argue the question, and to confess that all his arguments are senseless and absurd, nay, profane and criminal, the objection raised to Dr. Lynch’s major falls to the ground; and as he does not pretend that the conclusion is not logical, he must grant the conclusion or deny the minor. But he cannot grant the conclusion without conceding the infallibility of the Church, which he seeks to disprove. He therefore asserts that "the minor is lame, and can at best yield only a lame and impotent conclusion." The minor is proved only by removing or destroying the three suppositions. But this is not done; for the arguments by which Dr. Lynch seeks to do it apply with equal force against the fourth, which he must retain. But the legitimacy of this reply is questionable. One of the four suppositions must be true, for some adequate proof does exist. If the objections adduced are in themselves considered sufficient to remove the three, they cannot be urged against the fourth, for that would prove too much, namely, that there si no adequate proof. If insufficient, they must then be shown to be so on other grounds, or else we can always reply, one supposition is true, and it must be the fourth, because it cannot be one or another of the first three.

We deny the assertion, that the arguments against the three apply with equal force against the fourth. We begin with Dr. Lynch’s argument against the first supposition, – that every individual is to decide for himself on the strength of his own examination. This is utterly impossible; for the bulk of mankind want the ability, the leisure, and the opportunity to acquire the amount of science and erudition necessary to enable them to come to an absolutely certain conclusion on the subject of the inspiration of the Scriptures. This is evident to every one who considers, – 1. The controversies which have obtained respecting the canon; 2. The nature of the questions to be settled, and what it needs to enable one to decide respecting the fact of the inspiration of ancient books on intrinsic grounds; 3. That every one is required to believe the truth on the subject, not only after a life of inquiry, and historical and scientific investigation, but from the moment of coming to years of discretion; and 4. The actual condition of the generality of mankind in relation to science and erudition. These considerations are amply sufficient to disprove the first supposition; for every one is commanded to believe, and the proof, to be adequate, must be adequate in the case of every one, – of the ignorant slave and rude savage, as well as of the learned and gifted few, – of the boy or girl in whom reason has just dawned, as well as of scientific veteran or the grey-haired scholar.

The Professor replies: The learning asserted to be necessary, if necessary at all, must be so because the fact of inspiration in general is not determinable without it, and therefore must be as necessary in the body supposed as in the individual deciding for himself. But the body must acquire it either by investigation or by inspiration. If by investigation it has no advantage over the individual, and whatever proves his inability applies with equal force against its ability. If by inspiration, then it must have the same learning to be able to determine the fact of its own inspiration, and the people who are to receive its decision must also have it in order to be able to judge of its inspiration. Hence the Professor sums up triumphantly, – "When you shall condescend to inform me how the Fathers of Trent could decide with infallible certainty upon the Scriptures, without the learning which is necessary, in your view, to understand the evidence, if they themselves were uninspired; or how, if inspired, they could without this learning, either be certain themselves of the fact, or establish it with infallible certainty to the people, who, without your learning, must judge of the inspiration of the Holy Council, – when, consistently with your principles, you resolve these difficulties, one of the objections to your argument will cease." (p. 51).

This is the argument in all its force. Its substance is, whatever difficulties there may be in the way of the method of private judgment, precisely th same difficulties are in the way of the body of individuals supposed, and can no more easily be overcome by it than by the individual himself. This is the common Protestant reply to our objections against the method of private judgment, and is tantamount to saying, that a man has just the same difficulties to overcome in simply declaring what he believes and always has believed as in determining by personal inquiry and examination what he ought to believe; or that it is as easy to ascertain and verify the truth we are ignorant of as it is merely to express with precision the truth we already possess and always have possessed from the first moment of our existence!

But let us examine this famous argument, which, in one form or other, is the great, and virtually the only, argument by which Protestants seek to evade the force of the objections of Catholics to their scheme of proof. Dr. Lynch asserts that a certain amount of science and erudition is necessary to enable an individual, on the strength of his own examination, to come to an absolutely certain decision on the fact of the inspiration of an ancient writing, whose inspiration is determinable, not on extrinsic, but mainly on intrinsic grounds. Then, says the Professor, the same amount is necessary to enable an inspired individual to judge of the evidence of his own inspiration. But this conclusion can follow only from the assumption, that the evidence of inspiration must be the same for the inspired and the uninspired. If you make the evidence mediate in the uninspired, you must also make it mediate in the inspired; and if immediate in the inspired, then also immediate in the uninspired. But it is not mediate in the inspired, for, unquestionably, he who inspires immediately evidences the fact to the one he inspires. How, then, contend for mediate evidence in the uninspired? Grant this reasoning, and the author condemns himself. The evidence is immediate, and yet he has written a book to settle the question by argument and erudition, both of which are mediate. He has, on this hypothesis, evidently proved nothing; for he has offered inappropriate evidence, and must be mistaken when he says that he has proved the books enumerated to be "corrupt additions to the word of God."

Again; the Professor asserts, that, if the learning alleged be necessary in the particular case, it is so because the fact of inspiration is determinable in no case without it, that is, that a thing cannot be true in the particular unless it be true in the universal, – as if one should say, some men cannot be black, because all men are not black; or, some are black, therefore all men are black! We presume Mr. Thornwell’s servant is a black man; therefore, he himself is a black man. The principle the Professor adopts is, not only that what is true of the genus must be true of the species, but, also, that what is true of the species must be true of the genus. Thus, man is an animal; but a goose is an animal; but therefore, man is a goose; – or, a goose is an animal; but man is an animal; therefore, a goose is a man. But the principle, if adopted, carries us farther yet. It is the denial of all differentia, – the fundamental error of Spinozism or pantheism. Thus, under the genus substance, God is substance; but a moss is substance; therefore, God is a moss, or reverse it, and a moss is God! Is this a principle to be adopted by a Professor of "the Evidences of Christianity" in so respectable an institution as the South Carolina College? Has the Professor yet to make his philosophy, as well as his theology?

But, evidently, there is a difference of species; for the Professor would take it as unkind, nay, uncivil, in us, if, because he comes under the genus animal, as does every man, we should insist on including him in the species goose. It cannot therefore, follow, that, because a thing is true in the particular, it must be true in the universal. Consequently, Dr. Lynch may assert that a certain amount of science and erudition is necessary to decide on a particular fact by a particular agent, on particular grounds, and yet not be obliged to concede that the same amount is necessary in every case, whoever the agent, and whatever the grounds on which he is to decide. The amount alleged to be necessary may not be necessary in the case of the inspired themselves to determine the fact of their own inspiration; it may not be necessary in the case of the eyewitnesses of the miracles by which the inspired evidence the fact that God speaks to and by them; it may not be necessary to those who receive the fact immediately from the inspired themselves, or on the authority God Himself has commissioned to declare it; and yet be indispensable in the case of a single individual who has, on the strength of his own examination, to decide whether a book written some two or three thousand years ago is or is not an inspired composition; as it needs no argument to prove.

The knowledge, be it more or be it less, necessary in the case, to determine what books are and what are not inspired, must be possessed by the body supposed, as well as by the individual, we concede; and if that body is destitute of it and has to learn, it must learn either from investigation or inspiration, we also concede; otherwise we deny it. But the body asserted in the hypothesis is, by the very terms of the supposition, already in possession of the truth, and of all the knowledge necessary to declare it, and, in deciding the question, has only to declare solemnly what it already holds and has held from the moment of its institution. Therefore, it has to acquire the knowledge either by investigation or by inspiration; for it has not to acquire it at all. Unless, then, the Professor chooses to maintain that to declare what one already holds directly from Our Lord or His Apostles is the same thing as for an individual ignorant of it to learn it by the examination of historical documents and scientific investigation, he must concede that the parity he seeks to establish between every individual deciding the fact of inspiration on the strength of his own examination, and the Church, or body of teachers supposed, doing it on the authority of Our Lord and His Apostles, from whom it received it immediately, has no foundation except in his own fancy, and that the conclusions which depend upon it fall to the ground.

The Professor’s reasoning is vitiated by his supposing a body of individuals totally different from that supposed in the hypothesis he is arguing against. The body he supposes is no body or corporation at all; but a simple aggregation of individuals who at any given time compose it. Between such a body and the Apostles there must needs be all the distance of time and space, that there is between the Apostles and the individuals themselves. It would and it could possess only what the individuals composing it should bring to it, and they could bring to it only what they acquire in their individual capacity. "The mere fact of human congregation," as the Professor rightly contends, could confer no power, beyond the aggregate power of the individuals congregated. Hence the aggregate body, or collection of individuals, as well as the single individual, would need to obtain, either by investigation or inspiration, the knowledge necessary to come to an infallible decision. It needed no learned professor to tell us all this, which is by no means beyond the reach of any man of ordinary sense. Indeed, we feel humbled when we find learned men bringing such objections to us, – humbled for ourselves, that they can think so meanly of our understandings as to suppose us capable of holding any thing against which objections so obvious even to a child may be urged, and humbled for them, that hey should imagine, that, in bringing such objections, they are telling something recondite, or that it is possible that such objections can have any power to demolish that lofty and spacious edifice, the Church, founded upon the rock, firmly built and cemented, which has withstood all the assaults of wicked men and devils for eighteen hundred years (2), and against which the gates of hell shall never prevail, not even to loosen a single stone or to detach a single tile.

But this body, this aggregate of individuals, is not the body supposed by Dr. Lynch, and to prove that this has no advantage over the individual is nothing to the purpose, for nobody certainly no Catholic, denies it. The Professor’s argument is a sheer paralogism, of that species which consists in proving what is not supposed in the question, and which is not denied by the adversary, – a sophism for which the learned Professor has a peculiar fondness, and into which he falls with remarkable facility. The body supposed by Dr. Lynch is the Church teaching; for he says, "the pastors of the Catholic Church claim to compose it." But the Catholic Church, as a body or corporation, the only sense in which it is alleged to have any teaching faculty at all, is not an aggregation of individuals who at any given time compose it, – a body born and dying with them; but the contemporary of our Lord and His Apostles, in immediate communion with them, and thus annihilating all distance of time and place between them and us. She is, in the sense supposed, a corporation, and, like every corporation, a collective individual possessing the attribute of immortality. She knows no interruption, no succession of moments, no lapse of years. Like the eternal God, Who is ever with her, and Whose organ she is, she has duration, but no succession. She can never grow old, can never fall into the past. The individuals who compose the body may change, but she changes not; one by one they may pass off, and one by one be renewed, while she continues ever the same; as in our own bodies, old particles constantly escape, and new ones are assimilated, so that the whole matter of which they are composed is changed once in every six or seven years, and yet they remain always identically the same bodies. These changes as to individuals change nothing as to the body. The Church today is identically that very body which saw our Lord when He tabernacled in the Flesh. She who is our dear Moth, and on whose words we hang with so much delight, beheld with her own eyes the stupendous miracles which were performed in Judea eighteen hundred years ago; she assisted at the preaching of the Apostles on the day of Pentecost, when the Holy Ghost descended upon them in cloven tongues of fire; she heard Saint Peter, te prince of the Apostles, relate how the Spirit descended upon Cornelius and his household, and declare how God had chosen that by his mouth the Gentiles should hear the Word of God and believe; she listened with charmed ear and ravished heart to the last admonition of "the disciple whom Jesus loved," – "My dear children, love one another;" she saw the old Temple razed to the ground, the legal rites of the old covenant abolished, and the once chosen people driven out from the Holy Land, and scattered over all the earth; she beheld pagan Rome in the pride and pomp of power, bled under her persecuting emperors, and finally planted the cross in triumph on her ruins. She has been the contemporary of eighteen hundred years, which she has arrested in their flight and made present to us, and will make present to all generations as they rise. With one hand she receives the depositum of faith from the Lord and His commissioned Apostles, with the other she imparts it to us. Such is the body supposed, between which and the individual Mr. Thornwell must establish the parity he contends for, or not establish it at all. What has this body to do, in order to decide what books are, and what are not, inspired? Merely to declare a simple fact which she has received on competent authority, – merely what Our Lord or His Apostles have told her. What needs she, in order to do it with infallible certainty? Simply protection against forgetting, misunderstanding, and misstating; and this she has, because she has, according to the hypothesis, our Lord always abiding with her, and the Paraclete, who leads her into all truth, and "brings to her remembrance" all the words spoken to her by our Lord Himself personally, or by His inspired Apostles, – keeping her memory always fresh, rendering her infallible assistance rightly to understand and accurately to express what she remembers to have been taught. Here are all the conditions requisite for an infallible decision; and all these must be supposed, because they are all asserted in the hypothesis.

Now we demand what parity there is between such a body, which has only to state what it believes and always has believed on the inspiration of Scripture, and which has the supernatural assistance of the Holy Ghost to state it infallibly, and an individual who has nothing but certain writings before him, and who has to determine, by the examination of documents and scientific investigation of the intrinsic evidences, whether they are inspired or not, – a fact which, since it is supernatural, lies out of the order of nature, and is therefore only extrinsically provable. Who so blinded by passion, by pride, by prejudice, or ignorance, as to pretend, that such a body, supposing it to exist, can no more come to a certain conclusion, is in no better condition for coming to a certain conclusion, on the fact of the inspiration of the Holy Scriptures, than an ignorant slave on our plantations, or a rude savage of our forests? Who is he? Indeed, it is the learned Presbyterian minister, the "Professor of Sacred Literature and the Evidences of Christianity in the South Carolina College!" It is evident to any man of ordinary sense, that such a body can decide the question infallibly, and equally evident that the ignorant slave or the rude savage cannot.

To the dilemma, therefore, in which the Professor affects to have placed his Catholic opponent, we reply: – The Council of Trent could, uninspired, but simply assisted by the Holy Ghost, decide with infallible certainty upon the inspiration of the Scriptures, without the learning necessary in the case of the individual deciding for himself on the strength of his own examination, because it had only to give an authoritative expression to the actual faith of the body of pastors it represented – and it could establish the infallibility of its expression to the people who were to receive it, because, to do so, it had only to establish that it did express the universal faith of that body, easily collected from its being received by the whole body as soon as made known. The other part of the dilemma falls of itself. We do not assume, nor are we obliged to assume, that the Fathers of Trent were inspired. Inspiration is needed only where the truth to be promulgated is unknown and has to be revealed: where nothing is to be done but infallibly state the truth already revealed and believed, the infallible assistance of the Holy Ghost, without inspiration, suffices.

We have here shown that the difficulties suggested are resolvable on Catholic principles; the Professor must therefore concede, according to his promise, that one objection to Dr. Lynch’s argument ceases. But this one objection is his only objection to that argument, so far as it bears against the first-named method; and since this is removed, the argument, thus far, is not refuted. If not refuted, it, at least against the Professor, is sound, and, then, the first method is destroyed, and Dr. Lynch is entitled to his conclusion against it.

There remain to be considered the second and third suppositions. The second, that of relying on the judgment of the learned, the Professor passes over in profound silence, and therefore yields it up as indefensible. It is remarkable, however, that Mr. Thornwell should do so; for it is really the method actually adopted by the majority of Protestants, and abandoning it is virtually abandoning Protestantism itself. Undoubtedly, Protestants assert private judgment; but the private judgment on which they actually rely is not the private judgment of each individual, but the private judgment of those assumed to be learned and wise and prudent. Protestantism must never be taken at its word; for one of its essential properties is, to profess one thing and to do another, or to give us the name without the thing, – the sign without the thing signified. Whoever knows Protestants at all knows that they take their opinions, not on their own private judgment, but on the authority of their masters. Whenever they do not do so, we find them becoming downright Rationalists, or absolute apostates from Christianity; and it is never, only as grouped around some leader, swearing y the words of some master, that we see them retain anything of the form of religion, or present any compact appearance. The people are aware of their own inability to decide for themselves what they ought to believe, and they only decide what heresiarch they will follow, – what master they will have. Thus they say, – "So said Martin Luther, so said John Calvin, or George Fox; so teach Edwards and Dwight, Owen and Gill, Wesley and Swedenborg, Murray and Ballou, Channing and Fourier, Emerson and Parker." It is not in himself the poor Protestant confides, but in some leader who seems to him, for his learning, wisdom, and sound judgment, worthy of confidence. If here and there a bold, energetic individual starts up with perfect confidence in his own judgment, and has the courage or the audacity to proclaim, as the truth of God, his own personal conceits or convictions, he either founds a new sect, or a new party or faction in the sect, to which he pertains; as we see in the instance of Muncer and George Fox, Brown and Sandeman, Wesley and Whitefield, Erskine and Irving, Southcote and Pusey, Campbell and Bushnell, Channing and Parking. If each judged for himself, we should see no sects, parties, or groups; each would stand alone, on his own two feet, acknowledging no master, and no fellow, saying always I, never able to say we.

This must needs be. How, except by relying on such men as Mr. Thornwell, could the great body of Presbyterians, for instance, come to any conclusion on the question discussed in the volume before us? In fact, they do not attempt to obtain a conclusion by any other means. "Mr. Thornwell is a godly man; he is a great and learned man; he has investigated the subject; he wont’ deceive us; and we will believed what he says." Here is the fact, disguise it as you will, and Mr. Thornwell knows it as well as we do. We must, therefore, regard his passing this method over in silence as a tacit confession that in his judgment Protestantism is not defensible.

Nevertheless, we cannot be much surprised that Mr. Thornwell passes this method over in silence. It is not a method to be avowed. Protestant ministers would have a short lease of their power, if they were to avow it. They would be pressed with a multitude of questions, which it would be very inconvenient to answer. "After all," – the justly indignant people whom they have led might say, – "this private judgment you preached was only a pretext, a bait to catch gudgeons. You never meant it; you only meant that we must submit our judgments to yours! Is it true that you monopolize all the learning all the wisdom, all the judgment, in the world? What guaranty can you give us, fallible men as you confess yourselves, that you yourselves are not deceived, – nay, that you are incapable of deceiving us? You deceived us, when you promised us the right of private judgment. What reason have we to suppose you do not deceive us in other things also?" Such questions might be put, and, if put, it is obvious that it would be very inconvenient to answer them.

The first method is disproved; the second is abandoned; only the third remains. This, that of a single individual duly commissioned by Almighty God to announce the fact of inspiration to the world, the Professor does not attempt to defend as true, or as one which he does or can hold; but he maintains, that, on Catholic principles, it is probable, and therefore Dr. Lynch is entitled only to a probable conclusion, – not sufficient for his purpose, because he must conclude with absolute certainty. The Professor concludes, that, on Catholic principles, this hypothesis is probable, from the fact, that, on Catholic principles, it is a probable opinion that the Pope is infallible. But his argument involves a transition from one genus to another, and therefore concludes nothing. The single individual asserted in the hypothesis is commissioned in his individual capacity to announce the fact, and it is in this capacity that he is to do it. But such a commissioned individual is not the Pope, or Sovereign Pontiff. No Catholic holds the Pope in his individual capacity to be infallible.  He is infallible, as we hold, and as we presume Dr. Lynch also holds; but only in his capacity of Supreme Head of the Church, in which sense he is included in the fourth hypothesis, as joined to teh body of individuals asserted, inseparable from it, and essential to it.  Concede, then, the infallibility of the Sovereign Pontiff, nothing is conceded in favor of the third method; for in the sense in which he is infallible he is the Church, or essentially included in the fourth method; since the head is not without the body, nor the body without the head.

The third method, then, is not the method.  Then no one of the first three.  Then the fourth is; because some method of proof does exist, and it can be no other.  Mr. Thornwell, therefore, has not refuted DR. Lynch's argument.  If he has not refuted it, against him, it stands good.  Then the method of proof is the body supposed.  BUt this body has authority to make an unerring decision on the subject of inspiration, that is, to declare unerringly what is or is not the word of GOd, therefore infallible in declaring the word of God.  BUt this body is composed of the pastors of the Catholic Church.  Therefore the pastors of the Church are infallible in declaring the word of God, the proposition Dr. Lynch undertook to prove.  It would seem from this, that the learned and logical Professor's shouts of victory were decidedly premature.  IT is claar, also, since we are not considering what is or is not possible in the abstract, but in hac providentia, that the whole controversy turns between the first method and the fourth; for the private spirit is not admissible, and the Professor does not defend the second, and cannot, and would not if he could, defend the third.  It is, then, either private judgment or the Catholic Church.  So the Professor virtually concedes or maintains.  What, therefore, he further adduces in his Fourth Letter, namely, that it is as easy to prove the inspiration of the Scriptures as the infallibility of the Church, cannot be entertained.  There does exist some adequate proof; this is conceded.  It evidently cannot be the method of private judgment; for it is absolutely impossible for a field slave, for instance, ignorant of letters, and with no time or ability to learn, to be able to decide for himself on his own examination, whether Tobias or Ecclesiasticus is or is not an inspired composition.  BUt, if not private judgment, it must be the infallible Church, and therefore the Church and its infallibility follow from the necessity of the case.  This necessity overrides every possible objection. Bring as many objections as you please, and we dismiss them, as proving, if any thing, too much, and therefore nothing.  Quod nimis probat, nihi probat.

Thus far we have confined ourselves, after stating the question, to showing that the Professor has not refuted Dr. Lynch's argument for the infallibility of the Church.  This has been perfectly gratuitous on our part, for the burden of proof is on the Professor.  But having vindicated Dr. Lynch's argument for the infallibility of the Church, we are no able to conclude it against Mr. Thornwell from the necessity of the case, the strongest argument that it is possible to use.  Infallibility overrides all objections; and consequently, the Professor, let him do his best, cannot prove the fallibility of the Church.  Here, then, we well might rest; but we find our author rather an amusing companion, and we should be sorry to part company with him so soon.  We hope, therefore, to be able, in an early number, to consider the direct proofs of the fallibility of the Church, which he has attempted to bring.  In the meantime, we recommend him, since he must hold his logical reputation dear, to make himself acquainted with Catholicity, before attempting again to write against it, and review also his logic, before he again asks his opponent to reason in syllogisms.