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and what forms its basis, so far as I can understand it from the various publications which have reached me, the following passage from the able, learned, and accomplished author of the Sermon on Tradition -for it is not necessary to disparage in the slightest degree the high endowments of the leaders in this new way.
• With relation to the supreme authority of inspired scripture,' says the Professor of Poetry, 'it stands thus-Catholic tradition teaches revealed truth, scripture proves it; scripture is the document of faith, tradition, the witness of it; the true creed is the Catholic interpretation of scripture, or scripturally-proved tradition; scripture by itself teaches mediately, and proves decisively; scripture and tradition taken together are the joint rule of faith.'
So, then, tradition is the primary, and holy scripture the secondary, teacher of divine truth ; so then we are to search the inspired word of God, not as the one authoritative, adequate rule of faith, but as the document of what this tradition teaches; we are to study the scriptures, not in order to ascertain simply God's revealed will, but to prove tradition by scriptural evidence; and the standard of revelation is no longer the Bible alone, that is, the inspired word of the Eternal God in its plain and obvious meaning, but scripture and tradition taken together are the joint rule of faith.'
Allthis is surely sufficiently alarming; butit becomes incomparably more so, when we learn with what latitude the word tradition is understood. It includes, as we gather from the other repeated statements of the learned author, “unwritten as well as written' traditions, • certain remains or fragments of the
treasure of apostolical doctrines and church rules ;' in other words, an oral law, independent of, and distinct from, the truths which are directly scriptural ; ' which traditions are to be received ' apart from all scripture evidence, as traditionary or common laws ecclesiastical.' So that it appears that SCRIPTURE, AND UNWRITTEN AS WELL AS WRITTEN TRADITION, ARE, TAKEN TOGETHER, THE JOINT RULE OF FAITH.
I appeal to you, reverend brethren, whether we have not here a totally FALSE PRINCIPLE asserted as to the rule of faith. I appeal to you, whether the very reading of this statement is not enough to condemn it? I appeal to you, whether the blessed and all-perfect book of God is not thus depressed into a kind of attendant and expositor of tradition? I appeal to you, whether this is not to magnify the comments of men above the inspired words of the Holy Ghost? I appeal to you, whether this is not to make tradition an integral part of the canon of faith, and so to undermine the whole fabric of the reformation, or rather of the glorious gospel of the blessed God,' which that reformation vindicated and affirmed ?
I am as far as possible from supposing that the various pious and learned authors, to whose sentiments, and especially one of them, I am alluding, have any such intention. I am sure they have not. But the tendency of the system is not in my view the less dangerous. Such will and must be, I think, the general effect of its diffusion amongst a multitude of young divinity students, with comparatively little experience, and too apt to follow the new theories of popular and distinguished persons.
And wherefore this deviation from our old Protestant doctrine and language; why this false principle; why this new school, as it were, of divinity ? Ancient testimony in its proper place, who had undervalued? The dignity and grace of the sacraments, who had denied ? The study of primitive antiquity, who had renounced? The witness of the early fathers, who had disparaged? Wherefore weaken, then, by pushing beyond its due bearing, the argument which all writers of credit in our church had delighted to acknowledge ?
The testimony of the apostolical and primitive ages, for example, to the genuineness, authenticity, and divine inspiration of the canonical books of the New Testament, as of the Jewish church to those of the Old, who had called in question ? Or who had doubted the incalculable importance of the witness of the universal ancient church at the council of Nice, to the broad fact of the faith of the whole Christian world, from the days of the apostles to that hour, in the mysteries of the adorable Trinity and of the Incarnation, as there rehearsed and recognised? Or who bad called in question the other matters of fact which are strengthened by Christian antiquity, as the divine authority and perpetual obligation of the Lord's-day; the institution and perpetuity of the two, and only two Christian sacraments; the right of the infants of the faithful to the blessings of holy baptism ; the apostolical usage of confirmation ; the permanent separation of a body of men for sacred services; the duty of willing reverence from the people for them; the threefold rank of ministers in Christ's church; the use of liturgies; the observation of the festivals of our Lord's birth,
resurrection, ascension, and gift of the Holy Ghost; with similar points: to which may be added, their important negative testimony to the non-existence of any one of the peculiar doctrines and claims of the modern court and church of Rome. These and similar facts we rejoice to acknowledge, as fortified by pure and uncorrupted primitive tradition or testimony.
We rejoice also to receive, with our own Protestant reformed church, the universal witness of the Catholic fathers and ancient bishops, expressed in the three creeds, as a most important method of guarding the words of Revelation from the artful ambiguities of heretics, and as rules and terms of communion; just as we acknowledge our modern Articles, Liturgy, and Homilies for the same purpose. We rejoice again in tracing back almost the whole of our most sublime and scriptural Liturgy to a far higher period than the rise of Popery-to the primitive ages of the church in our own and every other Christian country. We thus admit, in its fullest sense, for its proper ends, the rule of Vincentios Lirinensis-Quod semper, quod ab omnibus, quod ubique traditum est. I
And we receive such tradition for this one reason - because it deserves the name of JUST AND PROPER EVIDENCE. It is authentic testimony. It is a part of the materials from which even the external evidences of Christianity itself are derived. It furnishes the most powerful historical arguments in support of our faith. It is amongst the proofs of our holy religion.
But evidence is one thing; the rule of belief another. Not for one moment do we, on any or all these grounds, confound the history and evidences of the divinely-inspired rule of faith, with that rule itself. Not for one moment do we place tradition on the same level with the all-perfect word of God. Not for one moment do we allow it any share in the standard of revealed truth. Scripture and tradition taken together are not, we venture to assert,“the joint
rule of faith ; ” but “Holy Scripture containeth all · things necessary to salvation; so that whatsoever is
not read therein, nor may be proved thereby, is not to be required of any man, that it should be believed as an article of faith.” And tradition is so far from being of co-ordinate authority, that even the ecclesiastical writers who approach the nearest to them, and are read in our churches, which not one of the fathers is, “ for example of life, and instruction of manners ;” are still, as being uninspired, not to be applied to establish any one doctrine of our religion.
Against this whole system, then, as proceeding upon A MOST FALSE AND DANGEROUS PRINCIPLE, and differing from the generally received Protestant doctrine, I beg, reverend brethren, most respectfully to caution you. I enter my solemn protest against the testimony of the fathers to any number of facts, being constituted a “joint rule of faith.” I protest against their witness to the meaning of certain capital series of texts on the fundamental truths of the gospel being entitled to the reverence only due to the authoritative revelation itself. I protest against the salutary use made of the testimony of primitive writers by our church, as a safeguard against heresy and an expression of her view of the sense of the holy scriptures, being placed on a level with the blessed scriptures themselves--that is, I PROTEST AGAINST A