Romanism: an Answer to the Pamphlet of a Romish Priest, Entitled "The the Testimony": Part 2

As regards the texts to prove the universality, you quote a number of passages which do not apply to the church at all, in which she is never named, and the context of which proves to demonstration that they do not apply to the church. I shall quote one to skew how utterly untenable this application is” Ask of me and I will give thee the Gentiles for thine inheritance, and thy possession to the ends of the earth.” But continue— “Thou shall rule them with a rod of iron, and dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel.” Is that the church, or judgment? Any one may see, by looking at the epistle to Thyatira in Rev. 2, that it is a judgment to be executed when the church is glorified with Christ. But your proof that these promises apply to the church destroys, on the contrary, all your arguments. You say they are to be fulfilled in the last days. To prove that the last days mean the time of the church and its universal prevalence, you quote the passage of John, which shows that the last days are those of Antichrist. Is the time of Antichrist's rule the time of all nations flowing into the church? For that is the passage you are proving applies to the universal prevalence of the church. Why, in Antichrist's time, instead of all nations flowing into the church, if any one confesses Christ be will be killed. Your friends, the Fathers, speak with the most terrible apprehensions of those days, when Christianity is to hide itself in dens and caves, and, save in such places, scarce such a thing as a Christian known, and if known, slain by apostate fury. This was a very untoward proof of your doctrine.
Another proof you give us of the universality of the church is, that the gospel is to be preached in all the earth. This is more untoward still, because this is not done yet, very far from it; as gathering the nations, the very large majority remain heathen, and a very great part have never been visited by the preachers of the gospel. So that the mark of catholicity or universality is not yet to be found at all. If all the ends of the earth seeing the salvation of our God applies to and means the catholicity of the church, then the church is not catholic yet; for all the ends of the earth have not seen the salvation of our God.
But you quote another— “This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world for a testimony to all nations.” Surely this word shall be accomplished; but you should have finished the sentence, for it destroys even the hope of catholicity, as you state it. It continues— “and then shall the end come.” So in Rev. 14 it is said, the everlasting gospel should go to all them that dwell on the earth, and to every people and nation, and tongue and language, saying, Fear God and give glory to Him, for the hour of His judgment is come. Indeed, if you would take the trouble to read Psa. 98 (97), which you quote, you will see it states the same truth; it closes by saying, are to rejoice before the Lord, for He cometh to judge the earth.
You tell us that every succession of bishops1 and priests.... communicated to their flocks and successors the same doctrine they themselves had received from their predecessors. Did they? Why the whole world was Arian at one time, save the persecuted. But that is not all. If the bishops and priests did this, why are you seeking to bring the professing Christians of (geographically) the greatest part of the world back to what you consider the truth? Did all the Greek bishops of the East do this? Do you own that they did? If so, why seeking to win them to Rome, and glorying in having here and there a little parcel of “united Greeks,” and all the Asiatic bishops, and the Egyptians, to say nothing of poor England? Did they, rejecting you utterly as they do, deem they had the true doctrine handed down? I deny it altogether as to Rome. It has been proved a hundred times over, that it has corrupted the doctrine of the Apostles. But I take a shorter road; because, if the whole body of Greek and eastern bishops, who teach different doctrine from Rome, have done so, then Rome is wrong; and if they have not, their bishops and priests have not communicated to their flocks and successors the same doctrine they had received. It is merely an assertion that yours have, which is just the thing to be proved; it cannot be itself a security, because a very large proportion (as you admit) have not done so. The bishops of some hundred millions, between Greeks and Protestant Episcopalians, teach quite different doctrine from Borne. Have they taught what they received? It is sadly poor ground you stand on for your proofs of the true church.
As to your texts for apostolicity, I have no doubt that the Lord sent the apostles and was with them, and will be with all who, sent of Him, walk in their footsteps and preach their doctrine, and that these will be sent to the end of the age. But how does this prove that the Romanists are these persons? Your proof is that, unchanged by lapse of time, Rome is teaching, in every age, the same doctrine God revealed and the apostles promulgated. Now this is just the question. In order to settle it, I must know what the apostles promulgated. There is no so good way as having it from their own lips, addressed to all the faithful; but when I take this sure and admirable criterion, I find that you teach all the contrary of what they promulgated. You teach that there is still a sacrifice for sin, and they very earnestly teach there is no more such. They teach there is one only mediator, and you teach there are a great many, and in most solemn acts leave the true one totally out. In the Confiteor used for renewing the remission of sins the name of Christ is not found, neither as confessed to, nor as demanding His intercession, though you have Michael the archangel and saints in plenty. You teach the Pope is the head of the Church; they teach that there is but one, and that is Christ; and so with a multitude of the most fundamental doctrines. I take the test you appeal to, and I find it totally condemns the system you advocate. I conclude you are not the real successors of the apostles at all, to whom these promises were made. The pretension is ruinous to you if you are not. What is the judgment of a loyal man of one who pretends to be king when he is not? That he is a rebel in audacious hostility to the true king. If you are not the apostles' true successors, the pretension to be so proves you to be in bold and presumptuous hostility to the Lord, and to those whom He did send; and that is the truth. The question is not, whether the Lord gave apostles and ministers, but whether you are those He gave.
You tell us to remember our prelates who have spoken to us the word of God, whose faith follow, and denounce the Reformation as setting them aside. As to the mass of the prelates at the Reformation, they did not speak the word of God or anything else to the people; and those who did preach did not preach the word of God. To know at any time whether they do, I must have the word of God to judge by. The apostle tells the Hebrews that their leaders had: does he tell me that your prelates do? How should he? Their faith was to be followed. The apostle puts his seal on it, though in truth the passage speaks of practical faith. They were to remember those whose death had crowned their profession. But how that teaches me that the Pope or a priest teaches the right doctrine, no human wit could divine; nor will it do, for Protestants, at least, to say to them, Obey your prelates. The question is to know whether they could own you as true prelates—a very different matter.
Here your mild winning preface gives place to judgment. You quote a passage which applies to the last and final message of the Lord Jesus to the Jews, and in which He declares judgment on that impenitent race, if they did not receive it; and you apply His title in sending it to yourselves, and His denunciations to your Protestant brethren, as you call them. Happily we are not Jews, and you are not Christ. Your threats do not awaken terror, but pity for your presumption, and ignorance of the passage which you thus quote at random. The apostles were strictly forbidden on this journey to go to any but the house of Israel. They were not to go near a Gentile, showing the true character of their mission.
In fine, the passages you quote, which embrace the whole world in prospect, prove, not indeed that Christ has failed in preserving the true church, His body—those livingly united to Him by the Spirit—those whom the Father has given Him (as He says, “Those whom thou hast given me I have kept”), for that is impossible; but that the visible church, those particularly called clergy, have wholly failed in acting up to the responsibility connected with these passages. They have not to this hour, though eighteen centuries have elapsed, carried the gospel into all the world. Instead of that, another thing has happened. So corrupt was the visible church that God has allowed the greater part of what was professing Christendom to be overrun with Mahometanism,2 which has spread AT LEAST as widely as Christianity; and what you call the Catholic church has had so little spiritual power, that well-nigh half the church split off from it, and became the Greek church (I am speaking according to its own pretensions, for I believe what you call the Catholic church to be Babylon); and subsequently, by the grossness of its corruptions, lost near half the countries which remained to it; and in others, as France, Belgium, Bohemia, and Moravia, only escaped the same result by suppressing by the most cruel persecutions the profession of the truth—in Spain and Italy burning those who had any conscience in maintaining it, and in France celebrating the horrible massacre of St. Bartholomew by medal and rejoicing.
Have you never read so much as this warning, drawn from the case of Israel: “On thee, goodness, if thou continue in his goodness, otherwise thou also shalt be cut of?” Of the professing church you have lost rather more than half; of the heathen world you have not gathered in a quarter, yet you claim catholicity i.e., universality—on such texts as, “All the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God.” Have you not shame in quoting it?
But this leads me to your next question—the infallibility of the church. You have quoted passages from the Old and New Testament to prove the church is infallible. First, for the quotations from the Old, if I can call quotations passages, or bits of passages, with the beginning, or end, or middle left out. I can hardly think you read the passages, as I have no wish to have an ungracious thought of you. But you must allow me, at the risk of being tedious, to refer to and complete those passages you have adduced. Not one has the smallest reference to the church. The first is, “I have made a covenant with my elect, I have sworn to David, my servant, thy seed will I settle forever.” Now, allow me to say, the church is neither David nor the seed of David, nor ever called so in Scripture, nor by any sober man. And, further, if you will take the trouble to read the Psalm, you will find that it is a plaint that the family of David is utterly overthrown, his crown thrown to the ground, and all that is contrary to the hope founded on this promise. Now do you mean that this has actually happened to the church? If so, what comes of your argument? You are unfortunate in your quotations. You see why I am unwilling to believe that you have read the passage you quote from. Now if you apply it to David's seed, of which it speaks, the case is quite clear; it has been set aside, their throne has been cast down, as Ezekiel speaks, “I will overturn, overturn, overturn it, till he come whose right it is, and I will give it him.” When Christ displays His glory, then indeed the promises to the seed of David will be accomplished. Till then His throne is cast down to the ground. But in whatever way you please to interpret the Psalm, it is a complaint that the promise, which you cite, has, as to present fulfillment, wholly failed. Is that what you think as to the church?
In your quotation from Luke there is not a word about the church, but a statement that the throne of David belonged to Christ as come in the flesh, for He is born of the seed of David, according to the flesh, but that is not the church's connection with Him.
I turn to other passages. Did you ever read Isa. 66? This is what it says: “For, behold, the Lord will come with fire, and with his chariots like a whirlwind, to render his anger with fury, and his rebuke with flames of fire. For by fire and by his sword will the Lord plead with all flesh; and the slain of the Lord shall be many.” Then he describes their idolatry and abominations, and continues, “For I know their works and their thoughts: it shall come, that I will gather all nations and tongues; and they shall come and see my glory. And I will set a sign among them, and I will send those that escape of them unto the nations, to Tarshish, Pul, and Lud, that draw the bow, to Tubal and Javan, to the isles afar off, that have not heard my fame, neither have seen my glory; and they shall declare my glory among the Gentiles. And they shall bring all your brethren for an offering unto the Lord, out of all nations, upon horses,” &c.... Then comes your extract, and after it follows this— “And it shall come to pass, that from one new moon to another, and from one Sabbath to another, shall all flesh come to worship before me, saith the Lord. And they shall go forth, and look upon the carcasses of the men that have transgressed against me; for their worm shall not die, neither shall their fire be quenched; and they shall be an abhorring unto all flesh.” Now do you believe that that applies to the church, and that it is this dreadful judgment of all flesh, by the Lord, which has set up your clergy, brought out of all nations? or, if you do believe it, do you think any sober Christian can think that an evidence, that you have solid proofs of what the true Church is?
Again, why did you not begin and finish the quotation from Jeremiah? Suffer me to do both for you. You begin with— “And they shall be my people.” Now, what precedes is this— “And now, therefore, thus saith the Lord, the God of Israel, concerning this city, whereof ye say, It shall be delivered into the hand of the king of Babylon by the sword, and by the famine, and by the pestilence. Behold, I will gather them out of all countries, whither I have driven them in mine anger, and in my fury, and in great wrath; and I will bring them again to this place, and I will cause them to dwell safely; and they shall be my people, and I will be their God.” (Jer. 32:3636And now therefore thus saith the Lord, the God of Israel, concerning this city, whereof ye say, It shall be delivered into the hand of the king of Babylon by the sword, and by the famine, and by the pestilence; (Jeremiah 32:36), &c.) Is that the church Has He scattered it in wrath, anger, and fury, into all lands; and is it only at some future restoration to its original place, that He will own it as His people? Do you believe it applies to the church? And now see how it finishes. You close with— “I will not cease to do them good.” The prophet continues, “But I will put my fear in their hearts, that they shall not depart from me. Yea, I will rejoice over them to do them good, and I will plant them in this land assuredly with my whole heart and with my whole soul. For thus saith the Lord; Like as I have brought all this great evil upon this people, so will I bring upon then all the good that I have promised them. And fields shall be bought in this land, whereof ye say, It is desolate without man or beast; it is given into the hand of the Chaldeans,” &c. Now, do you believe that God has utterly dispersed the church, and that it is only when He shall bring it back again, that He will begin to put His fear in the hearts of those who compose it? Or is it not as plain as possible to what it all applies?
But I am bound to hope that, whatever it may be of Isaiah and Jeremiah, you certainly never have looked at the passage in Ezekiel, because you expatiate on every member of the phrase you give, and show in detail how it applies so beautifully and clearly to the church. But the middle of the passage is entirely left out, though you give it as a continuous whole. This is what comes in after “shall do them.” “Another shall dwell in the land that I have given unto Jacob, my servant, wherein your fathers have dwelt; and they shall dwell therein, even they, and their children, and their children's children, forever; and my servant David shall be their prince forever.” (Ezek. 37:2525And they shall dwell in the land that I have given unto Jacob my servant, wherein your fathers have dwelt; and they shall dwell therein, even they, and their children, and their children's children for ever: and my servant David shall be their prince for ever. (Ezekiel 37:25).) And this is what precedes: Two sticks, representing Israel and Judah, which had been separated, were to become one in the prophet's hand; these two parts of Israel, being separated, were to be united; and then it is said, “And say unto them, thus saith the Lord God, Behold, I will take the children of Israel from among the heathen, whither they be gone, and will gather them on every side, and bring them into their own land; and I will make them one nation in the land, upon the mountains of Israel, and one king shall be king to them all, and they shall be no more two nations, neither shall they be divided into two kingdoms any more, at all; neither shall they defile themselves with their idols, nor with their detestable things, nor with any of their transgressions; but I will save them out of all their dwelling-places, wherein they have sinned, and will cleanse them, so shall they be my people, and I will be their God; and David my servant shall be king,” &c., which you quote.
Now every one who has the smallest acquaintance with scripture history knows what the two kingdoms of Judah and Israel are which were separated in the time of Rehoboam, and what the land means where their fathers dwelt, and that it has nothing to do with the church founded by the apostles. But if you will apply it to the church, instead of proving the infallibility of the church, you prove that it proving been divided, scattered, given up to idolatry and transgression, and that it is only when it is brought back from this state that God's sanctuary (which it had wholly lost) was set up in the midst of them, and that then the heathen would know that God sanctified it, when His sanctuary was in the midst of them. They had been in idolatry, divided and dispersed, and had not had God's sanctuary amongst them. Do you believe this applies to the church? But it is the passage, taking what your citation has left out of it. If it does apply to the church, does it prove its infallibility? And why do you cite only a part of the passage? I will not for a moment charge you with garbling scripture in this way, and applying passages in such a manner. Your church has taught you this; you have got it in her schools of theology, and have not examined for yourself. But do you think that your church's garbling passages, cutting out parts of them, leaving out the beginning or the end or the middle or all three, is a proof of her infallibility, to a sober Christian taught of God, or any man of sense at all? Of course, if a person examine nothing, there is no reason why he should not receive anything, even the church of Rome, or Mormonism, or anything which superstition or fanaticism may propose to his imagination.
But you quote Daniel too: “In the days of these kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that shall never be destroyed.” In the days of what kings? The ten kings, if you examine the chapter. Do you mean that the Church was only set up after the ten kingdoms existed; that is, after the destruction of the Roman empire? But what does the prophecy say of this kingdom? A little stone, cut out without hands, was to smite the feet of the image, and the whole image was to be totally destroyed, so that no trace was found of it; and the stone that had smitten the image became a great mountain and filled the whole earth. That is, it first destroyed every trace of the empires and kingdoms of the image, and then extended itself. Do you mean that the church first effaces and obliterates every trace of the empires, east and west, and then begins to spread? There is a judgment of the earth, which you have sadly overlooked: you are not indeed the only one.
This is all you quote from the Old Testament to prove the church infallible, in not one of which the church is mentioned, and not one of which can apply to her, and, if they do, instead of proving her infallible, prove she has utterly failed, and lost the presence of God, because this is the truth as to Israel who has so lost it, of which they expressly speak.
We come now to the New Testament. And here I must notice that infallibility is used in two senses totally different, and when one is spoken of or proved, the other is assumed to be so. We are sure the church is infallible; that is, it will surely be kept through this world as to its eternal salvation, till Christ takes it to glory. Till that blessed day He will always have true members of His church upon earth, will keep them, secure eternal life to them and for them. In this sense the church cannot fail. There will, infallibly, be a church. But infallible is used in another sense, that a person or a body can never fail in what it teaches. The church is said, by Romanists, to be infallible in what it teaches. Now this is a very different thing. I may be infallibly kept of God for salvation, yet never teach at all, or even fall into error sometimes. Again, an individual or the church may be kept in the truth by grace, and yet have no pretension to be infallible in teaching. Now I doubt not that God will maintain the truth in the earth, and the church too; though there may be partial failure, yet, in spite of failure, He will preserve it. But the church has nothing to do with teaching infallibly. She has to learn and hold and profess the truth, not to teach at all. Some of her members may; but no one says they are infallible. Somewhere God will always preserve the truth, and some witness to it, in the earth. Thus, when Arianism overspread the world, and the Pope received it, and put his signature to its doctrines, many, though banished and persecuted, and hidden through violence for the most part, still held fast the truth. So, amid the disputes and violence which characterized the conduct of ambitious bishops (so that one very large council of them, held at Ephesus, is called the council of robbers in ecclesiastical history), yet God preserved the substance of the truth. And if the Eastern church erred, and patriarchs erred, and popes became Arian, still some held fast the faith and a witness for it. You may find a whole council of bishops establishing semi-Arianism at Sirmium, and accepting Arianism at Ariminum and Selinica, but yet God preserved the truth.
But no one is infallible but God. Hence, when an apostle or a prophet was inspired by Him, he spoke the perfect truth. But an apostle or prophet was not himself infallible; for Peter denied the Lord, and, even after he had received the Holy Ghost, carried away all the Jews with his dissimulation. Yet the humblest child of God, if waiting humbly upon Him, will be kept in the truth.
I now turn to the tests you quote; and first, the famous passage— “Upon this rock I will build my church.” Now, the confession of Peter was a remarkable one; it was revealed to him by the Father Himself—a personal favor conferred upon him, which belongs to no one else. We may receive his faith, as every true Christian does; but the revelation is not made directly to us, but to Peter alone. “Blessed art thou, Simon Barjonas.” Now, nobody is Simon Barjonas but himself, not even the other apostles, and certainly not Pius IX. Thus taught of God, Peter made a confession which none had yet made—Christ was the Son of the living God. Several had owned Him to be the Christ the Son of God, but he adds the living God. So in his epistle he says— “He hath begotten us to a living hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead; unto whom coming as unto a living stone, ye also, as living stones,” &c. Now, here was more than a Messiah come to the Jews, and owned to be, as in Psa. 2, Son of God. It was the power of life in God Himself which was displayed in Him; as He says, He was the resurrection and the life Himself. Now here, in the person of Christ, was that power of life and resurrection on which He would build His church, and the gates of Hades—that is, of Satan, as having the power of death—should not prevail against it. It is always true; the resurrection of the saints will be the great final proof of it. The resurrection of Christ was the pledge of it, and has given us a living hope. Here, if I may so speak reverently, the Son of the living God, He who was the power of life, was pitted against him “who has the power of death, that is, the devil.” But the knowledge of the person of Christ, as Son of the living God, removed all question as to the issue of the conflict, and laid a foundation for the church which nothing could shake. It was not mere Messiah glory, nor the kingdom: the living God was engaged in the matter in the person of His Son. Satan did his best—the Lord allowing it—in Christ's dying on the cross; but it only demonstrated Christ's absolute victory in the resurrection. This is the foundation of the church, so that it cannot fail—the person of Christ as Son of the living God. God forbid I should trust a church, or be of it, which was founded on a man simply! Be he an apostle himself, he is but a man, and that will not do to build God's church upon. Is God to build on a mere man? Christ (for He says, I will build) on Peter? It may do very well for man's church; it is natural man should build on man; but it will not do for God's. It would be impossible, and destructive to His glory. God is not going to set aside His Son for Peter.
But Peter, let men say what they will, is never called a rock.3 He is called a stone; he partook of the nature of the rock, God having quickened him with this life, and given him to confess Christ in this character. But Peter means a stone, and does not mean a rock. People do not build on a stone, even if it partake of the durability of the rock to which it belongs. Peter is not the rock nor a rock; he is, as to his name, a stone, Peter having just confessed the true, living, and divine foundation of the new thing, which the rejected Christ was going to raise up in contrast with rebellious Israel; and Christ, having recognized that the Father himself had taught Peter this great truth, carrying far beyond the hopes of Israel, says, “Thou art a stone,” thou participatest in this truth; and on this rock, this eternal truth of My person, which you have been given of the Father to own, I will build the church. The Father had revealed this great truth of Christ's nature to Simon, and Christ gives him besides the name of Peter; for the confession of truth, by divine teaching, connects a man with the strength and durability of the truth he so confessed; he abides livingly with it and by it. The Lord adds that He will give him the keys of the kingdom of heaven (not of heaven, but of the kingdom of heaven to be established on the earth); and here Peter had to serve, whereas Christ builds the true church. He used the keys on Pentecost, and with Cornelius, and the like.
As to the Lord's sending the Paraclete, and teaching the twelve all things, surely this precious promise has been fulfilled. To apply it to the church is mere nonsense, because the Lord says, He shall bring to your remembrance whatsoever I have said to you. Now, He had said the things to the twelve, not to people alive now. The Holy Ghost may graciously act in any Christian's heart to make him attentive to Christ's recorded words; but He cannot bring to his remembrance what Christ has said to him, unless he pretend to have fresh revelations, and then have forgotten them. Hence, though the church pretends to be infallible, and teach all truth infallibly, it has never pretended to have recalled to it what Christ had said to it. It would prove the absurdity of the pretension on the face of it; but then, unfortunately, this is what the Lord has said, and you have quoted.
You say, this states plainly what the Holy Ghost would do when He came. Quite true. But for whom? He could not do this but for those who had heard Jesus during His life; and, mark, H was to teach the apostles all things, and guide the into all truth—that is, the work which the church pretends to do is done long ago. It may be for me by this truth, have it, be kept by it; but it was all taught to the apostles. If you say, that is what we say—we have learned and kept it; we own it was all taught to the apostles, not to us; our boast is to keep it safe. Then the verses you quote as a promise to yourselves do not apply to you at all, for they speak of teaching all things, and bringing all things to their remembrance which Christ had said to them. In a word, the thing was complete before you were there, as the text you quote proves. The only question is, Are you acting on, believing, and are your ministers teaching, truths received long ago? The promise is not to you, but to others long since gone. Whether you are doing so, I try by what these persons have confessedly left us. When I try this, I find you abusing their record to every false pretension to exalt self, and that you have departed altogether from the truth they taught and were guided into. The Holy Ghost has not to teach the church all things, because He has taught all things already to the apostles: the text you quote proves it. That He may apply it now to the heart, is all very true; that devoted men may teach the same truths to the heathen, or build up the faithful in detail, is all true; but the truths are taught. There is no question of infallibility, because the truth is already there.
That the Holy Ghost remains with the church, and dwells in all true Christians, acts in them, helps them, makes them obedient to the truth; that He will never go away till the time of glory comes, I fully believe. But this does not make them infallible. There is no place for infallibility, when all the truth is there. What are they to be infallible about, when nothing more is to be revealed? That, as weak creatures, we may be kept, preserved in the truth, so that the testimony of it should be always as a fact preserved in the world, is most true and most precious, and that God, I doubt not, will accomplish, according to His sure and precious word. You say, “If the Holy Ghost did come and remain with her, and if He continued to teach her all things whatsoever the Son of God revealed to her, how could she fall into error?” Now what is the meaning of this— “continued to teach her?” Was she then ever learning, and never coming to the knowledge of the truth? Continued to teach her all things whatsoever the Son of God had revealed to her—revealed to her when? Why continue to teach her what was revealed to her? She had, then, wholly forgotten it. “Continuing to teach her all things whatsoever the Son of God revealed to her,” has no tolerable sense. Why did she not keep by the Holy Ghost what had been revealed to her, instead of being taught anew? But I repeat, When revealed to her? It was revealed all of it to the apostles, who had conversed with Jesus. It has not to be revealed to the church.
You quote also John 16; but it is the same thing in substance, save that as the passage in John 16 spoke of remembering what He had said, this speaks of showing them (not to the church) things to come. Does the church pretend to have new prophetic revelations? Not one. Where are they authenticated and promulgated with her sanction? In a word, we have great pretension to authority when self is exalted; but when the test of reality is to be met, be it as to the past or the future, she is dumb. She has never authenticated one saying of the Lord as brought to her remembrance, nor dared to commit herself to a thing to come which she could show; nay, nor any fresh knowledge of the glory of Christ not in the written word. Yet this was the remaining part of the Holy Ghost's office, as stated in John 16; indeed the whole of it, as teaching and revealing. “He shall take of mine, and shall shew it unto you: all things that the Father hath are mine; therefore said I, he shall take of mine, and shall shew it unto you.” Now what of the past, present, glory of Christ, or of the future, has this boasting body, which calls itself the church, ever taught which is not revealed in the word given by the Apostles? Let them produce, authenticated by the church, some new truth not in the word. If not, what is revealed to her? unless she boasts of forgetting it continually, to be retaught it anew, and pretends this is the special glory of God, and a proof that she exclusively has the Holy Ghost—namely, that she has not kept the truth, and has to be taught it afresh. That individuals (enabled by God) may, through the help of the Holy Ghost, teach the truths revealed long ago, every one admits; but no one pretends such to be infallible.
But, further, the Lord promises to be with the Apostles in teaching all which He had commanded them to the end of the world. It is urged (what is not in the passage) that, as it is to the end of the world, it must be for their successors. Whose successors, and successors in what? In bringing the heathen to the faith? I do not doubt that, though it be not with the title of Apostles, whoever does the same service in grace will find the Lord with them in the service, according to their measure; and this is what is promised. Though secured, when inspired to reveal anything, the Apostles were not infallible. They had the Lord always with them in their service; in like service they who accomplish it will find the Lord with them, I doubt not, to the end. There is nothing whatever else in the promise; not a word about infallibility—it is not the subject of the passage, no more than the church; it speaks of the Lord's help in the missionary service they were to perform in His name. He would not abandon them in it; surely He did not.
Thus you have cited from the Old Testament passages which, you allege, speak of the church, which declare the body they contemplate, have been divided, dispersed, idolatrous, doing detestable things, and deprived of the presence of God—His sanctuary being set up only when promised restoration takes place. This is a very strange proof of perpetuity and infallibility, which secures from every error; and the citing them equally curious as a proof of infallibility in teaching. From the New, you have cited passages which declare that all truth was revealed to the Apostles; and hence, if the Holy Ghost has always to continue teaching the church what was revealed to her, affording a proof that she had not kept the truth and had to learn it again; an equally curious proof of infallibility and security. You quote one, a serious and important one, “But if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.” The church of God has been established of God to maintain and uphold the truth; and I am sure, however dark the times, God will never, till judgment comes, leave Himself without a witness of the truth, in and by the church, binding on the consciences of men. Blessed be His name that it is so!
But you cannot speak of the whole visible church as having continued to be such; because you believe that half Christendom, and undoubtedly the most ancient part of it, where it was first established by all the Apostles together, and the latest under apostolic care, has departed from the truth, and is not a pillar and ground of it. The Greek church is disputing with you for the holy sepulcher, and, for many years, the Turks using whips to keep the combatants quiet; while now we have the West arrayed against the East in a war which had its origin in this very dispute. This immense body of the most ancient bishoprics in the world have ceased to be a pillar and ground of the truth. All Protestant Europe and America have equally, in your judgment, abandoned it. It is not a promise, then, that the whole visible church is necessarily and always such; for, by your own account, a very large part (nay, if we include the Protestants, Nestorians, and Eutychians, the greater part) is not; if they are, you are not. It is not, then, the body of the visible church as such. Where this true church is to be found is another question; but your use of the passage is certainly unfounded. You cannot present the visible church as a security for the truth, when you affirm that half of it has gone away. If you tell me they are not the church, but we are, that is just what is to be proved; at any rate, they were, and thus the ground of securing is gone.
(To be continued)