Romanism: an Answer to the Pamphlet of a Romish Priest, Entitled "The the Testimony": Part 1

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And you have not one word, then, to say for the Mass, the very center and distinguishing feature of the whole Romanist system!
The omission is intelligible, but remarkable. The pretension to offer Christ still, as a propitiatory sacrifice for the sins of the living and the dead, is so subversive of Christianity, so contrary to the express testimony of the word of God, that it is natural for one who seeks to conciliate Protestants to Romish doctrines to pass it over in silence, if he can. The best way to win to these doctrines is to conceal them, to direct the attention from them. You cannot deny that the Mass is the center of your whole system. “He goes to Mass,” is the very term familiarly used to designate a Romanist; “He goes to church,” to mark out a Protestant. Why have you omitted this subject in your effort to enlighten poor Roman Catholics and disabused prejudiced Protestants? The pretense to have a sacrifice still offered up on earth, when the word of God declares, that “by one offering Christ has perfected forever them that are sanctified;” that “there is no more offering for sin, where remission of sins is;” that a continual offering was a memorial of sins, proving they were not put away; the declaration that you have an unbloody sacrifice, when the word of God declares, that “without shedding of blood there is no remission,” and that consequently, if the oblation of Christ was to be repeated, He must often have suffered;—such a plain distinct testimony of God's word on the very point, makes it natural you should omit all mention of it. The sacrifice of the Mass is the proof that, in what calls itself the church of Rome, there is no true remission of sins; for, “where remission of sins is, there is no more offering for sin.”
This is a very solemn point, dear reader. If the word of God be true, there is no remission of sins in the so-called church of Rome. Hence, those belonging to it are continually, as the poor Jews were, “offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins;” for they are unbloody sacrifices, and WITHOUT SHEDDING OF BLOOD THERE IS NO REMISSION. Romanism has a form of piety, but it denies the substance. God forbid that I should use a hard word as to souls as precious as my own, and who believe they are in the right; whom, I trust and believe, I love with unfeigned charity; such as I have lived amongst for years, and loved and served, as well as I knew how. It is not want of love to speak plainly in what concerns the salvation of souls. I would not use an abusive or hard word that could offend them; but I say plainly, that that is not the Church of God, nor is the true remission of sins to be found, where a sacrifice is still pretended to be offered— “For where remission of sins is, there is no more offering for sin.” The Church of God enjoys the perfect remission of sins by one perfect sacrifice, in which the precious blood of Christ was shed, offered once for all, and which never can be repeated; for Christ can die no more, can never suffer again, nor need He, for He has by one offering perfected forever them that are sanctified. The Mass is but a return to the weakness of Judaism.
Hence this one capital point is sufficient for every one taught of God, and must lead every one who bows to the word of God to reject the Romish system as an entire departure from Christianity as revealed of God. Yet I will take up briefly the different points the author of “Law and Testimony” has touched upon. And, first, some general observations which I would address to the writer.
You lean much upon the fathers. Forgive me if I think you have not much read them. You tell us, that you have taken from the authenticated work of every author you have quoted, as may be ascertained by reference to their writings. Now, that you are not personally acquainted with them, you have afforded most unequivocal proof in your pamphlet, in this: that you have supposed the Clement who wrote the Stromata to be the Clement who was, as you say, a “fellow-laborer of the Apostles, who was Pope of Rome, third after Peter, and is often mentioned by Paul, in his epistles.” “The Church, he writes,” you say, “which is one,” &c., and you quote “St. Clem. 7 Stromat.” Now, the very smallest acquaintance with the fathers would have saved you so glaring a mistake as you have here made. There was a Clement, companion of Paul, who wrote a letter to the church of Corinth, and who (though there is the greatest confusion and contradiction1 as to the succession of the first bishops of Rome) is stated by respectable historians to have been the third bishop of Rome. Two letters have been attributed to him; one is believed to be authentic—a pious effort to compose the strifes of the church of Corinth. But (must I say so? As my readers may be peasants of the North of Ireland, it may be necessary) Clement of Alexandria, who never was a bishop at all, was the author of the Stromata. He flourished from 192 A.D. to the beginning of the third century. He was president of the school of Alexandria. He was a great philosopher as well as a Christian, but of doubtful soundness2 enough on some points, and full of philosophical speculations. However, whatever the value of Clement's opinions, one thing is quite clear, that you did not consult him yourself; whether you did the other Fathers, which you quote, every one must judge by this example for himself. One thing is certain, you must be an utter stranger to the Fathers, to have taken Clement of Alexandria for Clement of Rome.
Your definition of the Church introduces another point in which the flagrant departure of Romanism from the Christianity taught by the Apostles, betrays itself in a remarkable manner. It is, you say, an assembly of Christians, united by the profession of the same true faith, and communion of the same sacraments, under the government of lawful pastors, whose head is the Pope. Now, scripture is as explicit as possible in saying, that Christ is its head—and it cannot have two. The statement of the Catechism of the Council of Trent is curious enough on this point, It says—it could not say otherwise—this Church has also but one ruler and governor, the invisible one, Christ, whom the Eternal Father hath made head over all the Church, which is His body; the visible one, him, who as legitimate successor of Peter, the prince of the apostles, fills the apostolic chair—one would have thought that made two. God “gave him to be head over all things to the church, which is his body;” or, if you prefer the Rhemish translation, “hath made him head over all, to the church, which is his body” —Eph. 1:22, 2322And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, 23Which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all. (Ephesians 1:22‑23); and again, chap. 5:23, “the husband is head of the wife, as Christ is the head of the church.” Now, this is practically very important, because the glorious Head, living in heaven, gives the true Church, His body, a heavenly character, though its members may be despised on earth; whereas a glorious head on earth, greater than emperors and princes in the eyes, of men, gives it a worldly glory and character which neither Christ nor the true Church ever had; besides, Christ, as the Head, is a source of grace, which it is impossible the pope or any man can be. But the grand point is, Christ is the one sole Head of the true Church; the Pope is the head of yours; therefore yours is certainly not the true.
One little word in addition, as to your definition. You tell us, it is an assembly of Christians, united by the profession of the same true faith. Hence, as there are millions in the Greek Church who say they are the true Church, and millions of Protestants who say they are, and millions of Catholics who say they are; and you tell me that their being united in the same true faith is part of the definition by which I shall know which is the true one, I must find out what the true faith is, before I know which Christ's Church is, or if any of them are; for each of them tells me they are. Of course, they honestly think themselves so; and you tell me that profession of the true faith marks the true Church. Well, then, I must necessarily know what is the true faith, to know who professes it; that is, I find the true faith before I find the Church. And so it always was; for it was on receiving the true faith from the apostles, or other servants of Christ, that people at the first became members of the Church; and they did not, and could not, become so otherwise.
But, again, you give us the usual marks of unity—sanctity, catholicity, apostolicity, and add infallibility, perpetual visibility. The first four are given in “Milner's End of Controversy;” indeed, they are the well-known marks as given in the Catechism of the Council of Trent. Nowhere is the truth given as a mark of the true Church. This is strange—still more strange, since, in your definition of the Church, the profession of the true faith is made essential to it. It is very convenient to assume it as a definition, and to drop it as a mark; but you have replaced it by a very convenient substitute-infallibility, which means, that whatever it teaches must be right, so that I must take it for true without inquiry. Before, I was to take the true faith, as showing Christ's Church; now, I must take the Church and all it teaches, without inquiry, as securing the truth for me. Which is the right way? Both cannot be. Holding and professing the truth are not infallibility. Every true Christian holds and professes the truth, but he is not infallible. If the Church profess the true faith, she holds a true faith which exists already to be professed, as it was given by inspiration to those whom Christ sent to reveal it. If she is infallible, she is the source of truth, not the receiver of it, not merely the depositary of it. Now, that is true of God alone.
But, in giving the first four marks, you allege your system justifies you. They are those given in the Catechism of the Council of Trent. The only point I would now insist upon here is this very solemn one, that the truth forms no mark of the true Church in the system of Rome. She dare not present it as a test; she disclaims it, she avoids it, she pleads unity, sanctity, catholicity, apostolicity. We will examine these just now. Truth cannot be borne as a test. All that is taught is to be received without any test at all, though an apostle could say, “prove all things, hold fast that which is good.” They of Berea were noble in the apostle's eyes because they searched the scriptures to see whether these things were so; but the test of truth cannot be endured at Rome; it is not pretended to be one of the marks of the Romish body. In place of it, it would impose all it teaches without any test at all-pretending to be infallible, which is the attribute of God only. Do I assert that man, by his own powers, is able to fathom the truth? No; but the Lord has said,” They shall be all taught of God; whosoever, therefore, hath heard and learned of the Father, cometh unto me.” God may employ any one, a minister of the word, a mother, a friend, a book to present the truth-grace applies it to the heart; that, the Church, even the true Church, has no pretensions to do—though she is an instrument to hold the truth up before men; but God alone can bring it home.
On the other hand, the Roman Catholic, having relinquished the truth as a test of the true Church, saying, that the truth is to be searched for in vain, leans not on grace, but entirely on human powers, to find the true Church; he points out, to use the words of a celebrated controversialist and bishop, “Certain exterior visible marks, such as plain unlearned persons can discover, if they will take ordinary pains for this purpose, no less than persons of the greatest abilities and literature.” This is stated in reply to the marks of the true Church, which the author declares to be laid down by Luther, Calvin, and the church of England—namely, truth of doctrine, and the right administration of the sacraments; that is, truth of doctrine and the right administration of the sacraments are objected to as adequate marks of the true Church, by which it may be known.
Now, if it be a question for heathens or Jews—for them the whole question is, just how to be saved. If they believe and are baptized they are saved, and members, it is to be supposed, of the true Church, before they have discussed its merits at all. If it be a question which arises among Christians, who seek among Roman Catholics, and Protestants, and Presbyterians, and other bodies, where the true Church is to be found; if, I say, the question arises among Christians, they have not all knowledge, doubtless, but they have saving faith, or they are not Christians at all; and hence, the truth is a most sure means of ascertaining the true Church. Thus, if I know, as a matter of my own salvation, that the divinity and atonement of Christ are the very truth of God, and I found anything calling itself a church, which denied these fundamental doctrines, I could at once say, That is not the true Church. Souls may be ignorantly in error there, may come to the knowledge of the truth and be saved; but I cannot own the body as the true Church of God.
And here a great and important question arises, on which I desire to say a few words, from its intrinsic importance, though the book I am commenting on relieves me from the necessity. They quote the scriptures, and, consequently, suppose us capable of understanding them, heretics though we may be, capable of receiving proof from them. But the subject is too important to pass it over with this remark, conclusive though it be. It is said, we cannot judge of scripture; it is alleged that laws require judges, and the like. Now, I do not go upon the ground of our capacity to judge scripture. My reason, dear reader, is very simple—it judges us. “The words that I speak unto you,” says the Lord, “shall judge you in the last day.” “The word of God is sharper than any two-edged sword, and pierceth to the dividing asunder of joints and marrow, and soul and spirit, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” There is a conscience in every man; God's word speaks to it, and judges everything in his heart. It is the light which manifests all things—the revelation of God and of Christ, who is light. I do not judge if the light be clean; it shows whether I am.
When Christ was in the world, when He spoke the words of God, were not men bound to receive them on peril of condemnation? Did it require the Church's authority to lead men to receive it? All the religious authorities—authorities which they quote to confirm their doctrine—rejected Him. Are His words less binding, less true, less holy, less gracious now? The word of God is not judged—it judges. Woe be to the man who hardens his heart against it! Men did then; what was the consequence? God, by John Baptist, mourned to them, they would not lament; He piped to them, they would not dance. Hardening their consciences against the conviction of sin, they (to use the words of the blessed Lord) rejected the counsel of God against themselves; that is, to their own eternal ruin. The word which was, and, blessed be God, yet is spoken and sent in grace, will judge them, and all who reject it in the last day; for God knows that, when He sent it in grace, He sent it with ample proofs to men's hearts and consciences that it is His word.
But a word more on this. It is not denied that the scriptures are the word of God. The Council of Trent has added seven books to the canon, never publicly received into it before, and against the express testimony of Jerome, the author of the Vulgate translation, which they receive as authentic. But leaving these contested ones for the moment (for in the New Testament there are none such), they own that the scriptures are the word of God. They own that Peter wrote his epistles as an inspired apostle; Paul his, John his, and so of the other books of the New Testament (and the same holds good as to all the Old Testament, to the Jews). Now, save the Epistles to Timothy and Titus, all the books of the New Testament are addressed to all the faithful; in one epistle, that to the Philippians, the bishops and deacons being added. That is, to express myself in modern language, the New Testament was addressed not to the clergy but by the clergy, the highest and wisest of them assuredly, to all the faithful in general, or in particular places. Now, if the faithful in general were incompetent to use them, how came the apostle to write them to them? The apostles thought what they wrote was suited to the mass of the faithful; you think it is not; which is right? And mark what a monstrous position you put yourselves in—the apostles wrote (to say nothing of the guidance of the Holy Ghost yet) in the way they thought best suited to the mass of the faithful, writing to all of them; and even in one case particularly insisting that care should be taken that it was read to all. You think you can do it better than they. What monstrous presumption! Did they do it badly, in a wrong manner, so that you can do it better? If really looked into, it is blasphemy; for it is the Spirit of God who addressed all this, save the Epistles to Timothy and Titus, to the common mass of the faithful.
But another very solemn question arises here, that of the authority of God in the matter. God did address the writings in question to the mass of the faithful as binding on their consciences, directing their lives and rejoicing their hearts. Now I do not insist here on the right of every Christian to read the scriptures (though no man has a right to call it in question), but on the right of God to address Himself to whom He will, and of the sin of intercepting what He has addressed to His servants. If I have sent directions and promises to my servants, he who hinders their having them as I send them, and directly from myself, meddles, not with the right of the servants, but with mine. God has sent His word to the faithful, not to the clergy (I except Timothy and Titus, as to this argument, however profitable, and in spirit binding on all). He who hinders their receiving it, or pretends to claim control over their getting it, flies in the face of God's authority and God's own acts. To pretend to communicate God's thoughts better and more clearly than His inspired apostles, and to hinder His communications reaching His own servants, when He has addressed them to them, is a strange way of proving any to be the true Church of God. And that is what exactly the clergy of the Roman Catholic system do.
But I will enter on your marks of the true Church. They are unity, sanctity, catholicity, and apostolicity. You refer to some other points, which I will advert to in their place.
First, unity. That the Church of God was one at the beginning, and manifestly and publicly such, is evident to every one that reads the scriptures. That it is not, if we consider it as a public, visible body on earth (for the true body of Christ will be infallibly so in glory, and is so always in the living unity of the Spirit) is equally evident, from the simple fact that we are inquiring which of two or three bodies, or if any of them, be the true Church. Unity of doctrine, and general discipline, which you give as being unity, is not sufficient. These may prove sameness in two bodies, as well as unity. There must be corporate unity—a single body. I seek more than you do, therefore in unity. Further, your proofs of unity are utterly vain and useless; they are as true of the Greek body, which detests and rejects you, as of the Romish, which denounces the Greek as schismatic and heretical. They have bishops and the assembling on Sundays, and the Eucharist, and the same doctrines, and the same general discipline, which you plead as proofs for Rome. You would find these in the Protestant Episcopal Church, too, all over the world. Perhaps, indeed, we may except a confession to a priest. But what a strange mark of unity you have given us here. It is perfectly certain that if it be one, no Christian for centuries after Christ was in the one true Church. There is not an historical point more incontestible than this, that private confession to a priest is a novelty unknown to the early Church. After the earliest times men did public penance for scandalous falls, and no confession was imposed as to others. There was, indeed, for a time, one penitentiary priest at Constantinople, and, as it appears, elsewhere; and such scandal arose, on a certain occasion, from it, that it was abolished by Nectarius; and his successor, Chrysostom, at the end of the fourth century, urges, over and over again, confession to God alone. Augustine's words are equally clear; so are Ambrose's. In the thirteenth century alone, it was first made obligatory by the Lateran Council, under Innocent III.—the same Pope under whom the Inquisition was established, and the Crusades formed against the Albigenses, and the atrocities of that holy war perpetrated in the South of France.
We agree that unity was at the first, and it does not exist now. There are Romanists, Greeks, Armenians, Syrians, Protestant Episcopalians, Presbyterians, all composing nominal churches, containing, the smallest of them, millions of professing Christians. Your talking of unity of doctrine and discipline amongst Romanists is nothing at all to the purpose. So there is amongst the millions of the Greek church; so there is in the smallest body of Christians you may affect to despise. The question is, is this found in the whole professing church? If you tell me, But none of the others, save Rome, are in the truth, that is just the question to be solved, and I must first have the truth to judge by. If I have that, according to the word of God, to judge by, then I judge the Romanist system to be apostasy from the truth of God. That you are at one among yourselves proves nothing at all, because others, as the Greek body, are that also. Nay, to go farther, Mahometans are, as to doctrine and general discipline, with pretty much such a schism as Greeks and Romans show under the name of Christ. Nay, in China we have numerically more than all put together in one system, worshipping heaven and the manes of their sainted ancestors.
You will say, and say justly, But these are not Christians—have not the truth of God at all. But then I must know what the truth is to judge that. I do (blessed be God!) know the sure precious truth of God, the doctrine of Christ, as God has revealed it. But when I use this, I find that you have it not.
But you have the Pope. Is this a security for unity? Why, you know well that there was a time when there were three at a time, and all three set aside by a council, a general council—that of Constance. if such unity as you speak of was necessary to the existence of the true Church, and the Pope was the keystone of it, where was it then? and where is your apostolic succession? In which of the three am I to trace it? There was a regular double succession of popes for fifty years; and then we have a council deposing a pope;3 and mark it well, the present succession of the apostolic see, and the consequent existence of the whole Romish body, depends on the right of a general council to depose a pope, and its superiority to the pope, for it flows at best from the pope set up by the council when they had deposed John XXIII. I say, at best; for these three popes are each of them sources of an ordained clergy. Again, when Pope Liberius solemnly signed the Arian creed, and the vast majority of Christendom were Arian, where was the unity of the Church through the pope then? Now I will not affirm that the story of Pope Joan (that is, that a good—for nothing woman was pope) is true; but, with the real uncertainty whether it be not true, what is become of succession, as a secure test of the true Church?
We have touched now on the question of apostolicity, as well as unity; but, on other grounds, this mark will not help you out in your assertion that the system of Rome is the one true Church. The apostolic succession of the Greek and Eastern bodies is as sure, and, indeed much surer—to say nothing of the Protestant—than that of Rome. So that this will not hinder my being a Greek, or an Armenian, or even a Protestant, How will this visible external mark help me? Am I to settle all the nice questions of the Council of Constance? Am I to settle whether Urban VI., or Clement VII., or their successors, were the true popes of their day? or, when the successors of each line were condemned by the council as guilty of heresy, perjury, and contumacy, and were excommunicated, am I to consider them popes or not? or, instead of them, the third set, Alexander V., and his successor, John XXIII., and who was in turn degraded by the council for his crimes? It is a dreary scene; yet it is not I, but you, who have referred me to apostolicity as a test of the true Church.
Do you say, the poor man has nothing to do with all this? But this is apostolicity. It will not, you mean to say bear examination. For how am Ito settle apostolic succession but by knowing it exists? Is this a simple external visible mark? Why, it is a question your most learned divines are at sea about, and void. They tell you the pope and a general council together are infallible; but how, when a council condemns a pope, and deposes him, a deposition on which the best line of your present orders, and the validity of the succession of the actual Peter, depend? Again, which are the general councils? This they dare not say; because if they admit Constance to be one, then the Church can act without a pope, and depose him; if they deny it, their succession is gone, because the present popes derive their succession from this act. Am I to settle all this, before I know the truth of God for my soul, or find the true Church? Where am I to find the records? How many historians am I to read? What is the authority of these authors? What a difference from the truth learned from the simple word of God! Or am I to gulp down as I find it, because Rome is infallible—I know not why?
But one word more as to the pope and unity. You tell us, when a heresy spread, a council was assembled by the authority of the pope. Now, if you have the smallest acquaintance with ecclesiastical history, you must know that all the early councils were summoned by the emperors. They were held in the East; and when Christendom in those quarters was torn in pieces by clerical contention, and ambition, and doctrinal discord, the emperors tried to make peace by gathering these general assemblies, none having been held (if we except that recorded in the Acts) before the emperors professed Christianity; and then it was only bishops and others within the Roman empire who met. The Council of Antioch before that time formally condemned the very term as heretical which the Council of Nice established as the only secure test of orthodoxy against Arius (that is, Homoousion); and this circumstance being pressed by the Eastern bishops who got influence over Constantine, the affair ended in Arius being received as orthodox into what you call the Catholic Church, and dying in its communion; and in Athanasius, who held what both you and I believe to be the truth, dying in banishment. And in the subsequent reign (the emperor being an Arian, and the orthodox persecuted), the pope signed the Arian creed, as a more dutiful subject than I suppose he would be now. But this by-the-by; it is perfectly certain that, in the first and great general councils, the pope did not assemble them by his authority. Is this what you refer me to as securing me in the knowledge of the truth and the true Church?
But you tell me, also, I have a test in its catholicity, that is, its universality. But here the voice of facts speaks too loud for you not to sink into what is ridiculous. “It must contain,” you say, “more members than any other community or denomination of professing Christians.” More members! a majority Is that all the truth of God has to depend upon? What has that to do with universality? Why, if I live in England, a poor countryman, such as you address your book to, the immense majority are Protestants; indeed, save Irishmen, none else scarcely could be found; and if I am to take such a poor test as the name of a building, everybody knows that if I asked, Where is the church? I should be shown the Protestant place of worship; all else are chapels. Indeed this test would hold good in Ireland. But is your test of the true Church reduced to a majority? Go to the east, where little is known beyond their own doors, and there this simple, external, visible test is the certain exclusion of all pretension of the Romanist to be of the true Church.
But some facts on this point require a little comment. You tell us that Rome has two hundred and thirty millions of adherents. Where have you found them? The fact is, that you have exaggerated by pretty nearly a hundred millions. There are in the world, on a rough calculation—for nothing more can be given here, or indeed be arrived at, as to some countries—there are in the world about one hundred and forty-three, say one hundred and forty-five millions of Romanists, eighty-five millions of Protestants, sixty millions of Greeks, and perhaps four or five millions in all of other denominations, as Armenians and the like in the east. Asia and Africa contain a certain number of Protestants and Romanists difficult to enumerate, and scarcely changing the proportions. That is, there are about as many professing Christians who hold that Rome is right and who hold that she is wrong. But who, in his senses, would take this, or the contrary, to be a means of ascertaining the true Church? Had men gone by numbers, they would, in the fourth century, have gone from the confession of Christ's divinity to the denial of it with the different emperors and the same pope, who would have helped them in and out with the majority into (not unity, thank God, for some would not give up the truth for an emperor or a pope, but into) so-called orthodoxy, if majorities were to decide it. And, alas! being mere professors, so it happened that they did wheel about with the turn of the tide.
I have spoken briefly of three of the marks of the true Church—unity, apostolicity, catholicity. As to unity, the Romish body is one, the Greek Church is one, and so of others: but general visible unity is lost, or we should not have to inquire which is the true Church. Catholicity, or universality, you have given up the pretension to—you claim only a majority; so that, if universality be a test, Romanists have not the true Church, nor, since there are Romanists, any other body either.
This test, by your own confession, and change of it into a simple majority (itself more than doubtful), makes the whole ground on which you search for the true Church a perfect absurdity. Your own statement proves, if universality be a test, that there is no true visible Church at all. Lastly, apostolicity is the most absurd test imaginable; for, while pretending to be simple and external, the succession of bishops from the apostles' day must be ascertained, or the mark does not exist at all. And in the next place, Greeks, Armenians, Syrians, and even Protestant Episcopalians have it, and prove it as gaily as Romanists themselves; while the only place where it is known to be most grievously damaged and upset is in the papal succession, where for fifty years there were two popes at a time, both ordaining other successions; and at last three, all put down for heresy, and another set up by a council which upset all their claims together. I have reserved the question of sanctity: it is a painful one, and I shall speak of it at the close.
I shall now refer to your use of scripture. First, your quotation of it is important. It is then available, intelligible to the faithful, and conclusive. We can understand it with God's help (without which we can do nothing right), and it binds our conscience. Your use of it is another thing. You quote, for example, passages, or parts of passages (for one is applicable to the state of glory), saying, that Christ would have one fold and one shepherd (i.e., no longer Jews or Gentiles as distinct people); Christ's prayer, that they all may be one; then the passage which applies to glory (“the glory that thou hast given me I have given them,” precedes what you quote); Paul's direction to the faithful, to be careful to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace; a direction to Timothy to keep what was committed to his trust; and to Titus, to reject heretics. It is clear, you say, from all these texts, that no one can be a member of the Church of Christ unless he holds the same doctrine as she teaches. Well, how this conclusion flows from a prayer for unity, or an exhortation to keep it in the bond of peace, is, I confess, beyond me, and, with all humility, I apprehend beyond anybody; because there is nothing in the passages you quote about the conclusion which you draw. Common sense tells us, that a person who is a member of a body, and does not hold what it teaches, is, in some respects, inconsistent. But your conclusion is utterly false, for either the Church must teach some error, or no member can ever be in any error whatever, without ceasing thereby to be a member of the Church at all; for if he be in any error, he holds something the Church does not teach, or else she teaches error.
But, though you tell us the texts prove it, you (strangely enough) give in the same sentence a totally different reason for it. The Church has received authority from Christ to teach all nations. Allow me to correct an error of a very grave character, on which all your reasoning, and all the Romish reasoning, is founded. You say the Church teaches. Now, I deny that the Church teaches at all; she holds the truth, has learned the truth, is sanctified by the truth; she teaches nothing. She is taught, and has learned. Ministers, whom God has sent for that purpose, teach. It was never said to the Church, “Go ye and teach all nations.” It was said to the apostles, when Christ ascended; and they went and taught, as did certain others, sent by the Holy Ghost; and the Church was gathered and built up. Then, those whom God raised up as pastors and teachers, waited, or were to wait, on their teaching.
But there is authority, you allege, also in matters of discipline; but this resides in the body. The passage you quote from Matt. 16 (your textbook failed you here, or you failed it; it is Matt. 18:1717And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican. (Matthew 18:17): chapter 16 is your favorite passage of the rock, on which it is built) does not speak of doctrines, but it does speak of the whole assembly, where a man is, and not of clergy or church teaching, or doctrine. If one Christian wrong his brother, the latter is to seek to win him alone; if the attempt fail, he is to take two or three, that all may be clearly established; and, if he do not hear them, the injured party is to tell it to the whole assembly; and, if the trespasser neglect to hear them, then the wronged man may hold him as unclean and a stranger. What has this to do with the clergy settling doctrine authoritatively, or with the clergy at all, or with doctrine at all? Just nothing. But when nothing is to be had, we must get the best sounding passage we can, that there may be an appearance of the authority of scripture: with the reality of it Rome can well dispense. Shall I tell you what the citation of this passage by Rome proves? That there is no passage in scripture to favor her pretensions—not a trace of one: had there been one, this would not have been always cited, while the smallest attention must prove it to have nothing whatever to do with the matter, and that Rome is forced to pervert scripture to have some appearance of being justified by it.
That is all you have to say for the unity of the Church. The unity of the Church I believe to be a most precious truth; but if you place it where you do, scripture will not bear you out, because it speaks of the saved, quickened, sanctified members of Christ, called to glory, as His body, the Church. There is another view of the Church. It is the habitation of God through the Spirit. (Eph. 2) As the body of Christ, it is surely preserved and kept;—but as a responsible body on earth, its career will certainly close. A falling away will come. This is positively declared in scripture; “that day will not come unless there be the falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, who exalteth himself above all that is called God or worshipped.”
(To be continued.)