Third Conversation

Familiar Conversations On Romanism

The Word Of God And The Church

N*. Well, James, you expect M., as it was arranged.

James. Yes, sir; he will be here, no doubt, directly. Pray sit down, sir.

N*. Thank you. How are you getting on?

James. I find my spirit happy and at peace. I enjoy the word now with Mary and the children. I feel I am very weak, but I am conscious that my peace rests on Christ’s perfect work, and as to the certainty of it, on God’s own word; while I enjoy it within in my own soul. It makes me wonderfully happy, for I see it all flowing from God’s blessed love. I know He loves me, unworthy as I am, but then, I have no difficulty in believing it because of Christ. I hope I may be able to glorify Him through His grace.

N*. The Lord be praised, James; and this is but the earnest of a more perfect enjoyment still of what now we know in part and see through a glass darkly. Our present Christian joys have the stamp of eternity on them.

James. Yes, sir; poor as our feelings are, we know that what makes us happy now will make us still more happy for ever. We shall know then better what gives us our joy now. But He who has brought me to peace is the one who loves me, and whom I hope to see in glory.

N*. And did your mind get clear the last time as to purgatory?

James. It could not but be clear when once one knows Christ’s precious blood cleanses from all sin. I had no thought that they had such strange notions that so deny Christ’s work. It is dreadful. I did not understand all about the Fathers, but what sets the soul clear is the knowledge of Christ and His grace. I was thinking since, sir (though there is nothing about purgatory in it), how the beautiful parable of the prodigal son sets all thoughts of it aside—how that parable would prevent one who really knew the grace of it from ever thinking of such a thing. However could the Father, when the poor prodigal had all his rags off and the best robe on, that is, Christ Himself, put him in purgatory after? It is like putting Christ Himself there. And then I see plainly that once I leave this world I have not the flesh at all, so that I do not know what is to be purged away. Here, where I have it, I can be exercised and sifted and tried, and for my good, because the flesh is still here in me.

N*. You are quite right, James. It is a complete confusion between penal suffering and purifying. If it be really purifying, it is a cruel thing to get it shortened by indulgences. If it be penal, it is contrary to all the testimony of the gospel.

James. What are indulgences?

N*. They are decrees of the pope, by which, in virtue of the merits of Christ and the saints, he delivers souls in purgatory from a part or all of the punishment they have to go through.

Mrs. J. Dear, who would have thought of such things? Why, it is not Christianity at all, sir.

N*. Surely it is not. I dare say we shall get upon this subject before we have done. It was the immediate occasion of the Reformation. They sold them in the most shameful or shameless way to get money to build St. Peter’s, the magnificent cathedral at Rome.

As to the Fathers, James, you have no need to think of them. They are no authority for anything, and indeed contradict each other continually like other men: only there was more superstition and ignorance in them than in most cultivated persons now, with real piety in some; as to others, it is very doubtful if they had any. I have referred to them because it was necessary to meet what was alleged. And now that their doubts and contradictions are shewn, we may dismiss them without passion and without fear. They have indeed been altered, and passages cast out by the Roman Catholics, but not so as much to affect such a mass of writings. But Rome has what is called an index expurgatory, by which some books are prohibited, and others are directed to be printed without such a passage, or changing it, or the like, when any passage militates against the doctrines of the Roman system. And this has been done.

James. Dear, what a crafty system!

N*. It is a system little known. They have published a kind of imitation of the Psalms, one hundred and fifty of them in number, just like the Psalms, and with a general resemblance, but have put the Virgin Mary instead of the Lord.

Mrs. J. What wickedness! It is all planned so. I am glad, James, you knew what it was before you got drawn in.

James. So am I, I am sure; it is a mercy to be kept from it in any way, but more still when it is by knowing the grace of God, which makes me see not only that there are wrong things, but that the foundation of their whole system is wrong. They do not build on grace and redemption, but on man and works. That I see plainly. But here is M. Good day, Bill, sit down.

N*. Good day, M. We have waited to go on with the subject proposed till you came. We are to speak of the word of God and of the church. We can still take Milner, who, in a brief way, will say all that is to be said.

M. Yes, we must seek the right rule of faith, and that is the written and unwritten word, the church being the interpreter and judge. We must have a living judge of controversy, or there is no end to disputes.

N*. The thing to be ultimately judged is not doctrines, my good friend, but souls. And the difference is most serious. I am not going to avoid the other question, that is, the means of discovering the truth; but while you profess to have the true church where alone salvation is, you have people in crowds who are lost, and none who know whether they are saved after all. But when you speak of judging what is the truth, your principle is wholly false. God does not judge of truth; He reveals it. Man is not to judge of truth, but, if God has revealed, he is bound on his peril to receive it. Men will be judged according to the truth they have before them. They that have sinned without law shall perish without law, and they that have sinned under law shall be judged by the law. If they have rejected Christ, they are still more guilty. The Holy Ghost was to convict the world of sin, because they had not believed in Him, and if they did not, they would die in their sins. If they do believe from the heart, they are saved, at least if God’s declaration is to be believed.

M. “Saved?” you mean hope to be saved.

N*. I do not, they are not yet out of trial and temptation, but they are reconciled to God, have peace with Him. As scripture speaks:—He has saved us, and called us with a holy calling, not according to our own works, but according to His own purpose and grace; 2 Tim. 1:9. So Titus 3:5; but according to His mercy He saved us by the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Ghost, which He shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour. They have eternal life.

M. That is, they hope to have it.

N*. Not at all. Of course, in all its fulness and glory they have not got it yet. But the scripture says, “This is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He that hath the Son hath life: and he that hath not the Son hath not life.” Again, John the baptist says, “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life, and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abideth on him.” What proves the Roman Catholic system to be so utterly false is that it teaches men as if the grace of God had not brought salvation at all. Men are just where they were if there was no Christ; they have to make their peace with God, whereas Christ has made peace by the blood of His cross. According to Romanism they have to gain eternal life, as the law required, “Do this, and thou shalt live.” Christianity says he that hath the Son hath life.

M. And must not a man work to get life?

N*. Surely not. How can he work if he has not got it? He believes on Christ as a poor sinner, and has life in Him; and then works to serve God and glorify Him, and grow on in the life he has got. “He that heareth my words, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but is passed from death unto life,” says Christ. Nothing is more false than supposing that no good works can be done unless we are to gain life by them; I should say none can be done till we have life. Do angels do good works?

M. Yes, of course they do.

N*. Do they do it to gain heaven?

M. Well, no, they are in heaven.

N*. What do they do it for, then?

M. Why, they are blessed things, they do nothing else.

N*. Well, M., we can hardly say we do nothing else, but as to the motive it shews that there is another way of doing right besides gaining life and heaven by it.

Besides, all real duties and right affections flow from the relationships we are already in. I mean this. If you were my servant it would be your duty to act and feel as such. James’ children’s duties and their right feelings flow from their being his children, and living in the consciousness that they are so. They have not, cannot have, such towards you and me, because they areaiot our children. So with a wife and every relation of life. Now, we must be really children of God before the duties of children can apply to us, and before we can have the affections suited to that place. We are children of God by faith in Christ Jesus, and our duties and right affections flow from this—can have no existence till we are in that relation. We have never to work to get into any true living relationship, for the duties cannot exist till we are in it; indeed, it is not possible in the nature of things. The Christian has duties, and has to cultivate holy affections, but it is because he is a child of God, and knows it. For he can have neither the feeling nor the conscience of his duty as a child till he knows he is such. We have difficulties and temptations to overcome, and God does encourage us by the reward of glory, the crown of life; but He never tells us to gain life by our works: the law, if indeed this can be said, does. But we are all condemned on that ground, because we have not kept it. The gift of God is eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord. What are good works, M.?

M. Well, I suppose, works done purely out of love to God and our neighbour.

N*. Then you never can do any according to your system, because you do them to gain eternal life, to merit heaven for yourself.

M. But you would look for something above human nature.

N*. Surely I should; I look for grace—grace and life from Jesus Christ working within. He has saved by His death. The Roman Catholic system is (not theoretically perhaps, but practically) the deadly heresy of Pelagianism.

James. What is that, sir?

N*. Believing that there is strength in man to do good and merit life by his works. And though they talk of grace, it is practically man’s own efforts; there may be sacramental grace referred to, but no personal practical dependence on grace. The Roman Catholic system hides it under hard words, and distinguishes between grace of condignity, that is, what a man sufficiently deserves—merit in which the works deserve a reward for their own worth; and grace of congruity, what fits a man to receive, though he be not worthy in the way of merit; but, in point of fact, a man merits eternal life by his own doings and efforts, which in principle and substance and verity is Pelagianism. Christ delivered the Old Testament saints, they say, out of limbo, and set us to keep the new law.

James. Well, I am sure I never had merit, or fitness, or anything, unless as a poor sinner is fit for grace, because he is one and wants it.

N*. But tell me, M. You believe that life is given, and pardon too, in baptism, do you not?

M*. Surely I do.

N*. Very well, according to Rome we are born of God in it, and have remission of sin, original and all actual sins, if we have committed any. It cleanses from sin, makes us Christians and children of God. We are born of water and of the Spirit, and what a child has contracted by generation is cleansed by regeneration.1

And it never can be repeated.

M. Never.2

N*. Then they have received life?

M. Of course, they are regenerated by water and the Holy Ghost.

N*. Do you think any other sacrament confers life?

M. None.

N*. So again Rome teaches, We may lose grace but not faith, and it is true faith, though it be not living faith (Council of Trent, 6, 28, 54, cap. 15, 46). The character imprinted by baptism can never be lost.

Note, then, if divine life be lost, it never can be had again. And if life be not lost when man dies in mortal sin, a man may go to hell and yet have faith, as born of God—only no grace.

M. But life is lost by mortal sin, but there is the sacrament of penance to restore grace.

N*. I know you hold that. But a man is not born again by the sacrament of penance; so that if he has lost life, he is ruined for ever, for he cannot be baptized again; or he must have the life still, though he have lost grace—a very strange notion if it be the life of Christ; but quite consistent with going to hell in mortal sin though having faith. But this is what is taught in the Council of Trent.3

But the matter really stands thus: The doctrine of catechisms and every Roman authority tell us that mortal sin, as the word indeed implies, is the death of the soul, deprives the soul of life or sanctifying grace which is the life of the soul. I take the words of one of many catechisms, “Why is it called mortal? Because it kills the soul, by depriving it of its true life which is sanctifying grace, and because it brings everlasting death and damnation on the soul.” Another, “By destroying the life of the soul, which is the grace of God.” Another, “that which killeth the soul in a spiritual manner, because it deprives us of the grace of God, which is the spiritual life of the soul.” The two first are American, sanctioned each by a different prelate of New York, the last Irish, drawn up by the Most Rev. Dr. Reilly. Now we are taught by the Council of Trent itself, That they are cleansed by regeneration from what they contracted by generation, referring to John 3. They are born again of water and the Spirit. They are frequently called ‘born again’ (renati). And in the Catechism of the Council of Trent it is insisted that baptism cannot be repeated: “that this accords with the nature of the thing, and with reason is understood from the very idea of baptism which is a certain spiritual regeneration. As then, by virtue of the laws of the nature, we are generated and born but once, and as St. Augustine observes, there is no returning to the womb; so, in like manner, there is but one spiritual generation, nor is baptism ever at any time to be repeated.”4

Here though I might quote many authorities to the same effect, we have the highest assuring us that a man cannot be born twice, and hence he cannot be baptized twice. But then, if his soul is killed by mortal sin, deprived of life, what is to be done? He cannot be born again. It is all very well to talk of forgiveness by the sacrament of penance, only with increased trouble, and purgatory to boot; but where is life to be had? It is lost by mortal sin. No one pretends that it is given by the sacrament of penance. Its being given in baptism is declared in the Catechism of the Council of Trent, as we have seen, to be the reason why that sacrament cannot be repeated. No man can be born again, twice. It is a fatal objection to the whole sacramental system of popery, fatal upon a fundamental point. Falsehood is always inconsistent and breaks down somewhere. Forgiveness may be talked of, justification regained, but the soul is killed, deprived of life, and cannot be born again. It is a curious part of the same system that baptism puts away all sins and all penalties, freely and absolutely, from a child who has none; penance leaves a large and awful part, though forgiving them, on those who have. People who have no sins are cleared people; those who have, are not, though reconciled to God. All this to a soul taught of God shews the folly of human inventions. Ah, M., to a soul that feels its need and looks to Christ, such darkness on vital points will never do.

But I return to the point we were upon. God reveals truth, and man is bound to receive it at his peril. He does not judge, nor is there any one to judge, what is truth. God has judged what is truth, since He has revealed it Himself; nobody can judge about it after that. Men will be judged by it. “The word I have spoken to you, the same shall judge you in the last day,” John 12:48.

M. But have I not to ascertain the truth?

N*. You are responsible for receiving God’s truth that He has revealed. When anything professes to be a revelation, I must of course first know that it is of God. For that I have a promise: Christ says, He that will do His will shall know of the doctrine whether it be of God or whether I speak of myself.

M. Well, we must ascertain, or know, whether it is a revelation of God, and for this we must have an infallible judge in order to know as a matter of faith whether it be so.

N*. It is a mere blasphemy to say so. God has given a revelation, and called upon me to believe. Is it necessary after this for some one to authorize me to believe? Then God’s calling on me for faith by a revelation has no force: because, according to you, when God has spoken and claimed my faith, another must judge about it.

M. But supposing I do not receive it? How can you help a man’s being a Socinian or an infidel?

N*. You cannot help it. Rome cannot help it—cannot give faith in the heart by authority; but the man will be lost because he has made God a liar. But your notion excuses the Socinian and the infidel, because, according to you, though God has revealed the truth, they are not bound to believe without the church. The whole question lies there. Has a revelation which God has made to us authority over me—a claim upon my belief—without any judgment of man? Your system says it has not. We must have, you say, a tribunal to judge about it, that is, to judge whether God’s revelation has a claim on my soul. This is an outrage upon God. If you, M., came to me, and I say, “Your word I cannot receive till James authenticates it,” it is quite clear I do not believe what you say because you have said it. Now, if I cannot believe God’s revelation because He has said what is in it, and for no other reason, I do not believe God at all.

James. That is clear, Bill; God’s word must have authority over us by itself or it has none at all.

M. But we must know that it is God’s word.

N*. It is a sad thing you should call it in question, when you know it is so; but we will pursue the point. I never knew a Romanist who did not on this point take the ground of the infidel: indeed he has no other. For, if the word has direct authority over my conscience, all his argument about the church falls to the ground.

M. We’ll take what Dr. Milner says: That the rule of faith or means of discovering Christ’s religion must be secure and universal; and it is evident that He has left some rule by which those persons who seek it may with certainty find it.5 These, as Dr. Milner says, are fundamental maxims. Letter 5.

N*. All Dr. Milner’s book depends on them, I know, and indeed he admits it; but I stop you at once here by saying that, as his book does all depend on this, all is totally false. What do you mean by establishing a religion on earth, and then having a rule of faith or means of discovering it? If Christ has established a religion, there is nothing to discover. And, further, a rule of faith and a means of discovery are totally different things, and the confusion of these two is the source of all the sophistry of the book. How did Christ establish a religion on earth?

M. Why, by His own teaching, and the teaching of the apostles.

N*. Quite right. And who judged of their doctrine so that men might discover the true religion? Who was the living judge?

M. Why there could be none: they must believe Christ and the apostles.

N*. Then all Dr. Milner’s and your theory about a living judge is false. There were what we may call ecclesiastical authorities then. The scribes and Pharisees sat in Moses’ seat, and they were all against God’s testimony by Christ. But men were bound to receive what Christ said (and the same of the apostles), because they said it. Now that is always true.

M. Yes, but they were alive to say it.

N*. They were; but has what they said lost its authority now they are dead? So far from this, that the Bereans searched the scriptures to know if Paul’s preaching was according to them, and they are commended for it, and therefore many of them believed. The scriptures were an authority to judge of an apostle’s teaching whether it were of God, that is, when he first came, to know if what he said were really of God. And when the rich man is described as praying that Lazarus might be sent to his brothers to warn them, the Lord answers, They have Moses and the prophets (that is, their writings), let them hear them; for “if they believe not their writings, how shall they believe my words? “We have no need to say what the authority of Christ’s words is for all of us; but, as an instrument of authority, the Lord puts writings before words. But the truth is, the condition of Christians—and it is with those professedly so we have to do—was exactly the same as now. The apostles sent the writings we have to different Christians to whom they had been particularly blessed, or published them for general use. Were Christians not to receive these writings as having authority?

M. Of course they were.

N*. And so are we. Now supposing at the first, the Jews had waited for the church to sanction the Lord, or the Jews or Gentiles to sanction the apostles, to discover the true religion, what would have happened?

M. Why, there was no church.

N*. Quite so; where Christ taught and the apostles preached, there was none, and there never would have been. That is, faith in the word goes before the church, not faith in the church before the word. Without faith in the word there never would have been any church at all; and, in point of fact, the religious authorities (when Christ was there) did everything they could to hinder people believing in Christ. And people believed in spite of them. So it has really been as to Rome. But further: when the apostles wrote epistles to the churches or general epistles, were the churches to wait for them to be sanctioned by others, by some church authority, in order to receive, believe, and obey them?

M. Of course not. If the apostles wrote, they were bound to believe and obey.

N*. And so are we. Was there any reference to any church authority in order to their receiving them?

M. No; they were bound to receive them. How could there be church authority about the apostles when the Lord sent them, and they were the highest authority in it?

N*. All right; and so are we bound to receive what they have written for the same reason. But there is another point. Were they addressed to a clergy who were to receive and interpret them, or to all the faithful? That is a material point for us to settle.

M. It is; and I cannot say exactly. I have not the Bible just at my fingers’ ends.

N*. You could not be where you are if you had, M. I would affectionately urge you to read it and see for yourself what these blessed servants of our Lord and Master, the Son of God, have said, and His own blessed words too. There cannot but be a blessing with it if done humbly trusting in God’s grace. I remember a case in Ireland where a Testament had been torn up and the leaves thrown to the winds. A poor man, who found one of the leaves and picked it up, could read, and saw, “And Jesus said,” “And Jesus answered and said,” “And Jesus said,” and so on. He said to himself, What! has the blessed Lord said so many things, and I did not know them? Struck by these simple but solemn words, “Jesus said,” he went off to the neighbouring town and bought a Testament, was converted, believed what Jesus said, and was happy in a known Saviour.

But you may say, How did he know it was true that Jesus said these things? Well, God guides the humble simple soul. Jesus had said it, and His word had power over his soul by grace. But, as I have related to you one history, I will tell you another.

I was in a cabin in Ireland where I was known, and began speaking to the brother-in-law of the man of the house about the scripture; his niece, a young woman, who was present, said, “But ‘they tell me, sir, this is a bad book—that the devil wrote it.” She was very ignorant, and could not read. I said, “That is a shocking blasphemy. (I know they excuse themselves when any intelligent person is there by saying, It is only because of the false translation; however, so it passed.) But I will not reason with you, but read you a bit, and you shall tell me yourself if the devil wrote it.”

I read to her what are called the Beatitudes: “And he opened his mouth, and taught them, saying, Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled. Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God. Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness* sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.”

I then said, “Well, what do you think? Did the devil write that?” “No, sir,” she said, “the devil never wrote that; that came from nothing but the mouth of God.” The word of God had laid hold of her; she lived and died most happy, dying three years after of a fever in a hospital. That is, the word of God proves its own truth and power to the soul.

But to return to our point. I will help you. None are addressed to what can be called in the modern term “clergy” at all save three: two to Timothy and one to Titus. These three were addressed to those specially engaged in the service of Christ. The rest are addressed to all the Christians either of a locality or in general, the elders among them in Peter being noticed in their place among the rest, and the bishops and deacons along with all the rest in Paul’s to the Philippians.

Thus that to the Romans, “To all that be in Rome beloved of God, saints called.” Here you could not tell from the Epistle if there were such a thing as elders or bishops, i Corinthians: “To the church of God which is at Corinth, to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, saints called, with all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours.” I suppose that all saints, and there were many ignorant ones, ought to have received and obeyed the apostle’s teaching. Here too we have not a hint about any elders. The receiving the apostle’s orders was a test of the spirituality of their state, “If any be spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord.” And so John says, “He that is of God heareth us.” In 2 Corinthians it was to all the saints which were in all Achaia, the province in Greece where Corinth was. The Epistle to the Galatians is addressed to the churches of Galatia. Here the whole body of saints is addressed too.

I need not notice every Epistle, because it is only to repeat the same thing; they are addressed to all the faithful. I may notice an expression in the first Epistle to the Thessalonians, which shews it in a distinct manner. Paul says at the end of it, “I charge you by the Lord that this epistle be read by all the holy brethren.” Colossians and Laodicea were to exchange Epistles, and they were to be read in the churches. Peter’s Epistles were addressed to all the dispersed residing in various provinces. In John’s we get if possible a stronger evidence. He distinguishes the Christians, while addressing all in general, into classes of fathers, young men, and little children, and writes more special words to these last, pressing on them their competency in virtue of having the Holy Ghost to understand everything, and says, though warning and teaching them with all affection, they had not need of any one to do so. And in his second Epistle he writes to a lady and desires her to judge those who came teaching and preaching by the doctrine they brought.

Thus we have ample evidence that the scriptures were addressed not to the teaching body (with the exception of three Epistles of Paul, which, however, are full of instruction to all, because he tells Timothy and Titus how all ought to act), but by the teaching body to the mass of the faithful. If Rome has reduced the faithful to a state of ignorance which makes them incapable of it, the guilt is on her shoulders. It is a proof that she cannot enlighten them. The only thing to do is for them to go back to the scriptures which she has practically deprived them of.

M. But they are written in Greek or Hebrew. What can the unlearned do? How can they now use this rule, or means of discovering Christ’s religion?

N*. This is another fallacy. The means of discovering Christ’s religion (and we are speaking now of places where the profession of Christianity is established), and a rule of faith, are not at all the same thing. A minister preaches, a mother teaches her child, a schoolmaster in a school, a friend— in a word, the means of communicating truth, or leading a person to discover it, are various. The scriptures may be the direct and blessed means in many cases, but any Christian, and in particular parents and ministers, may be and are the regular instruments in God’s hands of communicating the truth contained in the word to souls, but none of these are the rule of faith.

Dr. Milner admits that this is so, as regards the heathen, that is, that his principle does not hold good; but then, as he says, there is a special grace accorded. I admit the special grace—there is never any good or blessing without it: but I understand very well what Dr. Milner is about too. It is quite evident that in the case of heathens the church has no authority, for they as heathens do not own it; they must in any case become Christians first. Thus we find that in this case the word of God has power and authority without the church. Men discover the true religion without the authority of the church.

This is a grand difficulty for Dr. Milner; because after all, when Christianity has really to be discovered (as in the case of a heathen), it is discovered by the power of the word through grace, without the church at all. That is, in a word, that, in the only real case where the true religion is discovered, it is discovered without the authority of the church. Now for communicating the knowledge of Christ’s religion where it is professed, there are similar means, as I have said, ministers, parents, and the like. And do you mean to say that special grace is for heathens to receive the word, but that there is none needed, and none given for professing Christians? It is needed for every man. But, remark further, this way of discovering Christ’s religion is not a rule of faith. A minister, a priest, as you call him, is not a rule of faith; a friend or a mother is surely not a rule of faith. Yet they are the means in an ordinary way of the discovering, or more properly of the reception of, Christ’s religion. Now the confusion of these things is the source of all the fallacy; because the means of discovering need not be infallible—need not be, in the sense here stated, secure nor universal; in point of fact, unless when scripture is the means, it never is; on the contrary, it is adapted to the state and capacity of the person evangelized or taught.

A rule of faith must be secure, but as it is not the means of communicating Christ’s religion (though it may be such a means), it is not as a rule required to be adapted to such universal communication. It subsists in the form in which it was originally given to be referred to. Now these two things we have without the authority of the church at all: apostles, ministers, parents, and others, communicating Christ’s religion according to the language or capacity of hearers and learners; and we have the scriptures the fixed and unchanged rule to which all teaching is to be referred. And note this well: if the truth contained in scripture be not received, if a man remain an infidel, or become a confirmed heretic, the authority of the church is of no use. For such do not acknowledge it. She must in result leave them where they are, unless she burn them (as Rome indeed has done by hundreds and thousands) or banish and imprison them. But that is only copying the heathen who did the same thing.

I admit then the ministry to communicate the truth, and even a parent or any other. I admit the need of grace; but I say that you will be lost and condemned, if when God has spoken you do not bow to it, if there were no church at all. In point of fact, there was and could be none when first the word of God was announced, and men were bound to receive it at their peril. “If our gospel be hid,” says the apostle, “it is hid to them that are lost, in whom the god of this world has blinded the minds of them that believe not, lest the hght of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them”: so the Lord— “he that believeth not is condemned already.” Indeed, as I have said, those who stood in the place of authority then opposed the word. All who have to receive the religion of Christ as a new truth necessarily receive it without the authority of the church. They are Jews, infidels, or heathens, and acknowledge no such authority. If I turn to Christians by profession, they have not to discover the truth of Christianity, for they believe it; what is needed is that they should understand the truth, and that it should have power over their hearts and lives, and grace gives this, not the church. And, moreover, the Epistles and Gospels were addressed to the body of Christians in general by those who were gifted of God, as Paul, Peter, and the rest employed by God to write them. And those who received them were bound to receive and believe them, and to understand them and be taught by them. That there is progress in spiritual understanding is readily admitted.

Thus the whole theory of Romanism is a false one. Their analogy of a living judge, which they all make so much of, is none at all. A judge decides a cause by the law, not whether the law is authentic or not. He could not say, I receive the law on the authority of any one, judges or others. He receives the law because it is the law, because the legislator has so prescribed. So the Christian; he receives the revelation of God, because it is His revelation, and for no other reason. A spiritual Christian may be more enlightened in applying the word of God to any given case (a small part of the use of scripture) as a judge may; but neither of them gives authority, but only application, to that whose authority is employed. The church was providentially charged with taking care of the scriptures when they were written; just as anyone may take charge of my father’s will, but he gives no authority to it. Its being my father’s will gives it its authority. The scriptures were committed to the whole church of God.

The only difference as to the Romanist body is, that they have been unfaithful to the trust as regards the Old Testament, having pretended to authenticate as scripture what confessedly is not scripture at all. Her own famous doctor who translated the Old Testament for her, and whose translation she receives as the authentic scriptures though but a translation, declares that the church did not receive the books called apocryphal. Rome is unfaithful in this as in all else. God has not permitted her to be so as to the New Testament; but where she could be unfaithful, she has been so. And you will please remember, moreover, that your rule is as much Greek and Hebrew (in your case I must add Latin) as ours. The written word is the same for both: only that you have only a translation, and your unwritten one is Latin. What you have in any one’s mother tongue is mere teaching, as ours may be, not a rule of faith, not secure, for we have seen there are different lists of mortal sins, and even as to the written word you have a confessedly false list of books. You have added what the fathers even say is not to be taken for a rule of faith.

M. But what are we to receive as a rule, if it is not the written and unwritten word, and the church as interpreter?

N*. The written word of God is the only rule. It has divine authority. The other two parts I reject altogether, that is, tradition and the church.

M. But the church was never to fail, nor the gates of hell prevail against her. What do you make of that?

N*. I make nothing of it; I believe it, and bless God for it with all my heart. In spite of all the waywardness and wickedness of man, Christ maintains what He builds, and will maintain it till He receives it into glory. And it is maintained. Rome papal, as Rome heathen, has done her best to extinguish and put out this light; but she has failed and must fail. She seemed to succeed, and may apparently in large measure succeed again, for it is announced in scripture that there shall be perilous days in the last time, a form of godliness denying the power; but as God had reserved seven thousand who had not bowed the knee to the image of Baal, when even the prophetic eye of Elijah could not see one but himself, so God has in the darkest times (times confessed by your own popish writers to be times of shame and darkness)6 preserved a witness to Himself that no strength or subtlety of Satan, with all the power of Rome at his back, could ever suppress or extirpate. I recognize not the church of Rome, or any other particular professing body, but the whole church to be the dwelling-place of God by the Holy Ghost, until Christ comes and takes the saints to Himself, and that what is called Christendom stands in a particular relationship to God by its profession, and that it will be judged as His house. But the scripture has warned us that evil would come in, and perilous times come, with the form of piety (2 Tim. 3); and the apostle Paul charges the man of God to cling to the scriptures when the professing church should have all gone wrong.

He tells us (Acts 20:29) that grievous wolves would come in, that of the church itself perverse men would arise; but he never hints at apostles, their successors, or the clergy, as a resource, but, on the contrary, commends them to God and the word of His grace as able to build them up, and give them an inheritance among them that are sanctified. That is, he warns us that the outward professing church would go all wrong, so that the true servant of God would have to fly to the scriptures. The mystery of iniquity was already working; and, note, the apostle’s words exclude all idea of his having a successor. He knows that after his departure all will go wrong. How so, if another like himself would succeed him? So Peter sees the hour of his departure near, and takes care that they should have the truths he taught always in remembrance, and so writes his epistle; 2 Pet. 1:12-15. Thus the apostles foresaw the danger and difficulty; Paul prophesies that all would go on badly, and evil men and seducers wax worse and worse; and, instead of referring to the church as securing the truth, he states that it will go all wrong, so that at last there will be an apostasy, or falling away (2 Thess. 2); and both he and Peter refer to the scriptures as the means of being guarded in the truth.

The evil is come and has ripened, and we do refer, as the apostle told us, to the scriptures. You tell me divisions have arisen. I admit it, and admit the evil of it. But divisions have arisen with scriptures and clergy and all; the clergy have not hindered it more than the scriptures—they have been its authors. Rome is one of the divisions—a large one no doubt, but the worst of all—so that she hardly merits to be reckoned as a part of the Catholic church at all since the Council of Trent. But admitting that she be, she is just one part, and the worst part by far. Numbers make nothing when the question of the church is concerned. Christ speaks of a little flock (Luke 12:32) to whom He gives the kingdom, so that there being millions would rather prove it was not that flock. And when Rome had it all her own way in many countries (for she never had it everywhere, far from it, nor in the greatest part of Christendom), she could not help sects.

She slaughtered and killed thousands and thousands to put them down; she burned and hanged, and used every atrocity imaginable, to put down whatever did not bow to her, but by her conduct proved herself not to be the church of God, but the seat of Satan, and thus made natural conscience revolt on one hand, while on the other the plants of God’s planting throve in spite of her, and Europe was overrun by the hunted witnesses of Christ, while Rome disgraced herself below even natural conscience by breaking openly and solemnly plighted faith, and teaching men that they ought to do so, and not keep faith with heretics, and acted on it, hypocritically pretending to deliver them to the secular arm, and pursuing with relentless cruelty all who held the truth. She invented tortures and established the Inquisition to destroy all that had divine life. I have said she seemed to have reduced all to silence, when, after a secret working of the truth (particularly in the Netherlands, Germany, Bohemia, and Moravia), her security in wickedness led her to such a course of conduct as made all blaze out again more violently than ever; and now, taking all professing Christendom in, she is a minority in population, and maintains her former place only in her persistence and growth in errors.

M. But she is the true Catholic church.

N*. Who says so?

M. Everyone admits it.

N*. Far from it; the majority of professing Christendom condemn her as a dreadful departure from the true standing of the church of Christ. Many count her wholly apostate.

James. But, Bill, you used to say that your church was the universal church, and the oldest; and that all the millions of Christians, except just England that Henry VIII turned away to get rid of his wife he did not like, belonged to it.

M. And so they do.

N*. We will speak of Henry VIII in a minute. But as to the pretended Catholic church, all their assertions are unfounded. I admit that numbers prove nothing, but they impose on the imagination, and hence only I notice this. The majority of professing Christians do not belong to Rome. There are something under one hundred millions of Protestants, and I suppose sixty millions of Greeks, besides Armenians and Jacobites, in the East, whose numbers are not exactly known, but of which there must be a few millions, so that in rough round numbers there are, giving the largest margin, some hundred and thirty millions connected with Rome, and some hundred and seventy millions separate from it. Hence there is no pretension of catholicity. As to antiquity, it is beyond all controversy that Eastern Christendom is more ancient than Rome. Strange to say, the church was not founded at Rome by an apostle, though Paul was in prison there, not in his free apostolic labour—this he never was. But we know from the Epistle to the Romans that there were a number of Christians there before he arrived. We are a little anticipating what comes under the head of proofs of the true church. But facts dispel many illusions, so that we may reason more freely when the imagination is undeceived.

James. Well, I am glad to hear all this. I know numbers don’t prove truth, of course. We must have, we all admit, a divine foundation for our faith; but it acts on one’s feelings to think one is going against all Christians in the world, and I see it is nothing of the sort, and I know from scripture that Christianity did not begin at Rome.

N*. If we were to go by numbers, I suppose we should be Buddhists. They constitute, I believe, by far the most numerous religion in the world. The Mahometans count by many millions—I do not know how many, but I dare say some sixty millions. They own God, and Christ to be a prophet and judge of quick and dead, but not as Son of God. They are spreading rapidly in Africa through having the schools in their hands, and the prohibition for any Mahometan to make a slave of another. The Brahminical religion counts some hundred millions of votaries, other heathens perhaps over two hundred millions. I attach no importance to exactitude in numbers, my object being only to dispel the idea of the Catholic or universal character of Rome—to disabuse the imagination. But that it may not seem a loose boast, in rough round numbers I count them thus:—






Great Britain




Germany, including Prussia








Germany out of Austria






















United States


United States


Great Britain



South America









Besides this, there is Canada, the West Indies, and a scattered population, which cannot very much affect the balance either way. The main numbers are pretty nearly exact; were there five millions wrong in either, it would not affect the question we are considering. Then between Turkey, the Austrian possessions, Russia, and the East, the Greeks must number some sixty millions, besides smaller, but ancient, bodies. So that Christendom not connected with Rome numbers some hundred and sixty, or hundred and seventy, millions; Rome, some hundred and thirty. That is a strange way of being Catholic. Catholic means, you know, James, universal.

That the Greek churches in Asia are more ancient than Rome, as James has said, scripture itself proves. Rome was the last founded of which we have any original history, and Greeks, Nestorians, and Jacobites were all separate from Rome, the earliest in the fifth, the latest in the ninth, century, and have their succession too.

But having got rid of this delusion, let us turn to the rule of faith. We need not consider the first false rule, private inspiration, for, save a few Quakers, no one alleges such a rule. Only we must, on the other hand, be very careful to guard against Romanist infidelity as to the action of the Holy Ghost. They practically deny the aid and succour of the Holy Ghost given to every humble believer. They ridicule it (as I know by experience) to throw men helplessly on their clergy. Now this is the worst kind of Pelagianism, the denial of the assistance of grace. The faithful Christian is assisted of God to understand the scriptures as he is to walk as a Christian.

The help and teaching of the Holy Ghost, and the written word, are not two rules of faith.8 The scriptures are the one sure rule, and the Holy Ghost He who works in the believer to enable him to use that rule, and not merely as a rule but as the food and edification of his soul. And in this the contents of scripture are adapted to the progress the soul makes in divine things and its state in every respect. It is applied by the Holy Ghost to the conscience and heart of the humble Christian who owns his need of the grace of God, and looks for it according to his need. The person who denies this is an heretical denier of the grace and goodness of God. Mark this, because Dr. Milner, who I suppose from his book is an unbeliever as to this, carefully leaves it all out. If men go on presumptuously, without depending on the grace of God, they will err as to scripture, and as to everything else, whether they call themselves Catholic or Protestant. Do you deny, M., the need a Christian has of the grace of God, and the goodness and faithfulness of God in giving it, and the gracious operations of the Spirit of God in the Christian’s heart, as it is said, “The meek shall he guide in judgment, and the meek shall he teach his way”; or, as the Lord said, speaking of His people, “They shall be all taught of God”?

M. No, of course I do not; no good Catholic does; but that can only be in the true church.

N*. In one sense I quite agree with that. It is only in the true church, though we may not yet be agreed what the true church is. But this same gracious operation must take place to bring a person into the true church when he is outside it, and to help him when he is in it.

M. Well, I do not deny that.

N*. I am glad of it. Only this is all overlooked by Dr. Milner. He does not dream of any help from God. But not only does he leave out the gracious actings of the Holy Ghost in believers, but he leaves out all ministry. He will talk of tradition, and of the authority of the church, meaning however the clergy; but the ministry of those called of God in the church to teach and edify he overlooks altogether, or even of parents, who in their place have a ministry, and are called upon to bring up their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.

People are not called upon to discover a religion. They are not called upon to take up a Bible, printed by the king’s printer, as Dr. Milner says (Letter 9). That may happen, and has often, very often been blessed, but it is not the regularly appointed way of learning the truth. If even (as may be the case in the neglected masses of mankind, be they high or low, rich or poor) that is the case, they have not to judge of the book; they may judge right or judge wrong, but, if that is all, nothing is done. If the word of God is to profit them, it must judge them, and have its place in their hearts and consciences. We are superior to the thing we judge. As long as we are in spirit superior to God’s word, it is not God’s word at all really to us. We must be subject to it, receive it as it is in truth the word of God, to have life and edification by it.

As the truth of God is in the word, or rather as it is the truth, of course the Holy Ghost can use the scriptures to convince of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment, and, blessed be God, thousands of souls have thus found life and peace; but that is not our subject, but what is the sure rule of faith when we do profess Christ to be our Lord. There is a ministry of the word and parental responsibility in the church of God. God alone can give efficacy to either by His grace, but men are not left to discover a religion. Christianity is the activity of God to communicate the knowledge of the truth, and grace which saves and gives eternal life, the knowledge of Christ. This is carried out by the ministry of the word and parental care, but that is not a rule of faith, but an appointed means of grace. This the Roman Catholic professes to believe as well as Protestants. None pretends a parent, or even a priest, is infallible. The question is—supposing men who profess Christianity teach differently, what is the rule by which a sincere person may know with certainty what the truth in that matter is? We say the rule of faith is the written word of God. You say the Bible and tradition taken together, or the word of God, written and unwritten, and that, besides the rule itself, Christ has provided in His holy church a living, speaking, judge to watch over it, and explain it in all matters of controversy. That is, that, in fact, the word, written or unwritten, is no rule for him at all; he must submit to what is told him by the living judge. If the judge pronounces and decides the matter, that is the rule for him who has to submit to it; he cannot refer from the judge to the law.

I need not take notice of Dr. Milner’s objection (Letter 8, 1), that if Christ had meant to make the scriptures the rule, He would have written that book. It is irreverent, pretending to say what Christ ought to have done; but, besides, it contradicts his own theory, because he admits the written word, with unwritten tradition to complete it, to be the rule; and, if this be so, Christ has given for a rule what He did not write. The traditions as to the motives for writing the Gospels are too vague and too late in the history of the church to require any notice; and, as Dr. Milner adds, no doubt the evangelists were moved by the Holy Ghost, which is what we believe: I have no controversy with him on this head. His only attempt is to shew that they are insufficient; what has he to add? This point will come in after, when the same subject is spoken of in treating of the true rule.

I have only to notice the objection of differences of opinion among the reformers who acknowledge scripture. This is merely to catch people’s minds. No rule can hinder differences so long as the human mind works. The doctrine of the Greeks differs from the doctrines of Rome, of Nestorians from both, of Jacobites from all, of Protestants from the system they have abandoned. This only proves that the church has failed in hindering divisions and maintaining unity. We have four great bodies, of which the latest formed has been for nearly a thousand years separate from Rome, and older than she, besides Anglicanism and the other Protestants. The divisions existed before Protestants were there. Rome is only one of these divided parts, not the oldest, not so numerous as all the rest taken together. With these divisions, the question is, what is the rule to judge which is the right one? Not the authority of one giving itself as the rule. That is what Rome does. Who can trust that? The scriptures were before all these divisions and questions, are given by inspired writers, are God’s revelation of what was from the beginning, as God instituted it.

Divisions prove the infirmity of human nature: only that it is much more excusable in Protestants just coming out of the dark obscurity and superstition men were immersed in during the middle ages, than in Greece and Rome whose common starting-point was pure Christianity. And men must not suppose differences do not exist among Romanists. The Dominicans resisted with all their force the doctrine of the immaculate conception of Mary (now made by the present pope a matter of faith); so that there was the most important body of Romanists (till the Jesuits arose), the inventors and directors of the Inquisition, judges thus of heretical pravity, unsound on what is now declared to be an article of faith. The Augustinians believe in predestination; the Roman Catholic priests deny it. Nay, so far did these disputes go, that the Dominicans in the seventeenth century charged the Jesuits with maintaining the idolatry of the Chinese in their missions in China. For years the inquiry was pursued before the pope, and the practices sanctioned by the Jesuits at last condemned by Pope Clement XI in 1704.9 The decree was mitigated in 1715. Now the allowance of heathen idolatry in Christians was a much graver difference than the details on which Protestants differ, while agreeing in fundamental truth.

Again, on the point of authority, which you consider so important, the gravest differences exist. The famous four articles by which the Gallican church defended its liberties were condemned as earnestly as possible by the Papal advocates. In these the synod of French bishops declares that the decrees of the Council of Constance, which maintained the authority of general councils as superior to that of the pope, are approved and ratified by the Gallican church; and that the decisions of the pope are not infallible in points of faith unless they be accompanied by the consent of the church.

Now here is an all-important difference on the subject of authority and infallibility. Our question will bring us back to this. I only notice here that differences are not confined to Protestants. It is a noticeable circumstance that it was the same man Bossuet, that wrote a crafty book on the variations of Protestants, who led the way in this important variation among Romanists, and defended it against the attacks of Ultra-montanes as they are called, that is, the extreme defenders of the pope’s claims. Ultramontane principles prevail now, but to this day Gallican principles, which deny the pope’s infallibility, hold their ground in France and Germany.10 Disputes and discussions belong to the infirmity of human nature. Where there is freedom for it, it appears more openly, and so it has amongst Protestants. In Rome, though violent, it is more connected with intrigues, and less exposed to view.

Another point insisted on by Dr. Milner, which has nothing to do with the rule of faith, but which I may do well to take up as it is noticed, is this, that sovereign princes have acted more in the Reformation than theologians. The truth is that sovereign princes, long oppressed in the rights and authority which God confers on the magistrate, profited by the public movement, brought about by the faith of individuals though long prepared by the working of God’s Spirit, to throw off the unjust authority of the pope. This was according to God’s will, who gives to the sovereign his authority, and brought about by His providence. With this the rule of faith has surely nothing to do. It was the righteous resumption by the civil magistrate of an authority to which the pope had no title. Whether they abused this is nothing to the purpose. Civil statutes had been passed constantly against the absorption of lands into the hands of monks and others—mortmain as it was called. They evaded them by the introduction of uses (that is, when it was forbidden to a monastery to hold lands, they were given to a layman to hold it to their use, to the peril of their souls if they did not); and then when this was condemned by the Statute of Uses, they evaded that by what are called trusts.

All this was roughly swept away in England at the Reformation—the land partly given to courtiers, partly employed for education. But what all this has to do with the rule of faith it would be hard to tell. Superstition had given the lands to monks, and, when fresh light broke up the superstition, they were taken away again; and the monasteries, which had become a plague to every country by luxury and wickedness, were suppressed. As to Henry VIII, he threw off the pope’s authority, and he was right. Why should a prelate at Rome govern England? As to his being a Protestant, he was anything but that. He had six articles drawn up, amongst which was the doctrine of transubstantiation, the key-stone of Romanism, and persecuted bitterly those who did not submit, all who held the Protestant faith, as the pope had done before him.

James. I do not see what all this has to do with the authority of the scriptures.

N*. It has none. It is merely advanced by Romanists to excite prejudice against Protestantism.

M. And do you not charge the popes and others with wickedness?

N*. Well, as yet we have not spoken of it. But this has a just place when we speak of popes and the mass of prelates, because Romanists pretend to find the church, and infallibility, and authority over other men’s faith and consciences, in these wicked men; whereas no Protestant dreams of taking Henry VIII or the Protector Somerset as an authority. They will be judged in the great day like others, and their acts judged like other men’s now.

James. That does make all the difference in the world, M. Save as I may mourn over others’ evil, what is it to me what Henry VIII or any such person was? He has nothing to do with my faith. We are talking of scripture, and that is what you must speak of.

N*. As to fanaticism, I answer again, that it is one of the infirmities of our poor nature, but it has been in all ages, papal or Protestant. The wicked fanaticism of the Brethren of the Free Spirit, in the palmiest days of popery, was worse than any fanaticism that ever arose out of Protestantism, and lasted longer. But what has this to do with the rule of faith? The Protestant princes put down Munzer by force of arms because he armed himself against them. The popes nearly suppressed the Brethren of the Free Spirit by punishment and burning them. All this proves nothing but the sadness of man’s history.

There is another assertion which, by a seeming analogy, is more plausible. That there are judges for the law, and a common or unwritten law in England; and so for the divine law, both of these too (Letter 10). The first point for which this unwritten law is shewn to be needed is that I cannot receive laws till I own the authority of the legislature. This shews the danger of analogies. There is but one lawgiver, and I may add one judge. God Himself is the Legislator and Judge too; but now let us speak of legislature. Is not God Himself the lawgiver, the authority?

M. Of course He is.

N*. Well, that question then is settled. There is indeed another important point which you seem to forget—natural conscience, the knowledge of good and evil. Now I do not deny that this may be sadly darkened and corrupted. Still there is a conscience, and, Christianity having brought in light, natural conscience is enlightened and has a means of judging, though it may not even be aware of how it has acquired it. Thus, if money be given practically to allow sin, or for forgiveness of sin, or to commute for humbling penances and a tax on particular crimes as to how much should be paid; if the clergy was forbidden to marry, and then money was taken by their superiors for allowing them to live with a woman not their wife, the common law of natural conscience overrules the pretended authority of the church, and tears all sophistry to pieces by its just horror.

James. But surely the Romanists have never done or allowed this.

N*. Indeed they have; it is just as much a matter of history as that Rome exists.

James. Why, M., what do you say to that?

M. It is only relaxing the temporal punishment due to sin.

N*. It is (Letter 43) an actual remission by God Himself of part of the temporal punishment due; and, further, does it not take out of purgatory or shorten the stay there?

M. Yes, that is, the temporal punishment due to sin.

N*. Is it not by virtue of the surplus of merits of Christ and the saints?

M. Yes.

N*. Does Dr. Milner deny that indulgences were sold?

M. No, he does not.

N*. He does not; he says (Letter 42), “avarice has done everything bad”; but yet a further question: who sold them, and by what authority were they sold? Was it not the church’s, or, if you please, the pope’s?

M. Well, I suppose it must have been.

N*. To be sure it must and was, and they were farmed out to the Fuggers, who were famous bankers, to whom the sale was given for so much by the Archbishop of Mentz who was charged with it, and committed to the Dominican order. So that the Roman Catholics’ accusation against Luther is that it was his jealousy, as an Augustine monk, against the Dominican order about this, which made him break with the pope.

James. Well, M., this is dreadful. This never could be the true church, the church that the Lord Jesus established, nor have His authority. I understand What Mr.—— means by conscience now, for all the reasoning in the world could not persuade me that that comes from God, or that those are from God who do it. And I see you cannot deny that what you call the church did it.

N*. He could not, because it is a notorious piece of history. It was the immediate cause of the Reformation. Luther protested against it because it destroyed all morality, and in point of fact, they did forgive all sins (that is, the punishment of them, which was what people cared about) past and future, so that in one case a person bought the indulgence and then waylaid the priest and took all the money he had collected.

M. But people must be in a state of grace to profit by it.

N*. A queer state of grace a man must be expected to be in when those that expect it are selling him remission of chastisement for sin on the part of God; besides, the sacraments may have settled all the state of grace for him.

No, no, that is what I say; natural conscience breaks through all this sophistry. At the time of the Reformation the corruptest thing in the world was the Roman system. Do you deny what is perfectly notorious, that the corruption of clergy, monks, and all, had arisen to such an inconceivable pitch in the fifteenth century that the natural conscience rose up in clamour against it, and helped to bring on the Reformation?

M. Well, I do not know the details of history, but I know the church is holy and always was. It is one of the marks of the true church.

N*. Well, I will give you some details as far as one can venture. We shall touch on this mark. But I agree with you, it is a mark of the true church, and you shall judge whether the Roman body can be the true church, though the point we are on now is to shew that the common law of even natural conscience, claims its rights against such horrors. The practice of concubinage among priests with those to whom they were not married was so universal that it was forbidden by the Council of Paris in 1429, which says their example had corrupted all the laity. But in vain; in the middle of the same century it was decreed at Breslau that they should pay ten florins if they did, and indeed the people of the parish very often would have it so to prevent more universal corruption. The truth is, it was universal, and so among monks, and even unnatural crimes. The witnesses to these are all of the Roman body, and a layman complains what was a sin for laymen was none for the clergy, and what was a sin for the clergy was none for the laity; for if a clergyman had a wife of his own it was a sin, if a layman had it was not; but if a clergyman had a hundred and sixty or a hundred and seventy, none of which was a wife, it was no sin, but if a layman had it was. And the ablest and most respectable Romanist doctor of his day who sought reformation, Gerson, declares if a monk lives in uncleanness he does not violate his vow provided he does not marry, only he is guilty of sin. One remedy, he says, is to do it as little as possible and do a great many good works, and take care it should be in secret, not on festivals or in holy places, and with unmarried persons. In truth, the shameless lives of the clergy, or, as Adolphus bishop of Merseburg, expresses it, “the licentious unmarried life of the clergy was before the eyes of all.”

I have only cited these general testimonies; to go farther would be to enter into a sea of enormities horrible to go through. No doubt many a godly man cried out against it, and a reform in head and members was the universal outcry of natural conscience from laymen. And the councils of Constance and Basel tried to do something towards reforming the excessive licentiousness and wickedness of the monasteries. But as soon as Constance had started a pope, having deposed three, who were all reigning together, the chief one as guilty of everything that was horrible, there was an end of reformation; and the council at Basel was broken up by the then pope under pretext of transferring it elsewhere; so that there were two councils at a time, one at Basel without a pope, and another at Florence with a pope; and the Council of Basel passed decrees against priests living with women without being married, and added that the bishops were not to hinder the severity of the decrees being enforced: a pretty plain proof of what took place. The result was that the excessive wickedness of the clergy brought about the Reformation, the immediate occasion being the sale of indulgences for sin. God came in with an ancient truth in His grace, but the occasion of it, and what made men ready to receive it, was the revolt of the common law of conscience against the outrageous wickedness of the so-called church.

James. Well, M., what can you say to this? It is very shocking. Can you deny it?

N*. He cannot deny it. It is a matter of public notoriety, known to all acquainted with history, and proved by the outcry of Christendom, and the public acts of synods to repress it, because it was grown so scandalous. The Reformation has partially moralised the Roman clergy where it has come; but only partially, and where it is not present the fatal obligation of celibacy is a source still of endless corruption. Now conscience revolts against this, the true common law of man if you please to talk of common law, which the church is not, because it is confessedly a positive institution. Our Legislator there is God Himself, and there is a certain common law for man, namely, the knowledge of good and evil.

M. Yes; but you have no judge who is to decide on the matter when there is a difference.

N*. Have I not? In the first place conscience, as far as it goes, decides at a man’s peril what is right and what is wrong. And note here, though man may get light from God’s revelation, yet as to a judge God is and will be the final judge, and the conscience must and is bound so to regard Him. Conscience is answerable to God directly, and no man can come between the conscience and God so as to destroy the right of God. “Who art thou,” says the apostle, “that judgest another man’s servant? To his own master he standeth or falleth.” To come in between God and the conscience is not to touch man’s rights, but God’s.

James. That is true, M. If my master bids me to do something in his own matters, and you tell me to do something else, you meddle with his right to command me as much and more than with me. Conscience makes us subject to God, and not dare to disobey Him. We do want help and light for it, but it always looks to God as the authority that is over it, and it cannot, dare not, look away from Him to another, because this sets aside God. It would no longer be subject to Him.

M. All very true, no doubt; but if God has set any one to judge, as the king does the judges, you must abide by their decision.

N*. That is all well to decide about property or crimes, and to keep peace among men. But that is absolutely impossible as to conscience, because God has a judgment to come in which He will pronounce originally and finally as to guilt; in which He will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and make manifest the secrets of the heart. Therefore the apostle warns to judge nothing before the time till God does that, God having reserved this to Himself. There can be no judgment which can come between the conscience and God’s final judgment. It remains, in spite of men, in all its force and authority, and a man must answer to it, and no other authority can come in between, so as to relieve him from obedience to that judgment. So that in the proper sense of judge I admit no judge but God, who executes it in the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ. Judgment applies to the final state of souls, and not to causes between man and man, or offences against the State. Offences against the State the State judges. Our offences are against God, and God judges.

M. Yes; but the State appoints judges, and God has appointed the church.

N*. Hence the Queen cannot judge at all; she may shew mercy, but that is not the question now. But she is not allowed to judge at all. Is that true as regards God?

M. Of course not.

N*. He judges then Himself, and He only; save, as we know, He exercises this judgment by Christ, does He not?

M. Of course, every one owns that.

N*. The whole case then has to be settled by Him who knows it all, He being the judge, and having the whole cause originally and finally before Him?

M. It has.

N*. Priests and pope and all.

M. Yes, priests and pope and all.

N*. Then all your comparison about a judge is simply all false. God Himself judges, and that is the only true judgment; and I am bound to look to that, and not to allow any other to come between me and my conscience. For God judges according to a permanent, abiding, direct authority He has over me every moment, so that I dare not look away from Him. If I do I am sinning. For note that, James, it is not only particular cases to be settled, about which God judges, but every instant of our lives, so that we cannot look at anything but Him without neglecting Him and His claims.

James. I see it plain enough; I feel it too. I know I may fail, and shall, save as kept by His grace, but I know I am bound to take His will every moment. It ought to be my joy to obey Him. It was the blessed Saviour’s own joy; but at any rate I am bound to do it, and must give, and ought to give, an account of myself to God. And tell me, M., can the priest, or the pope, if you please, answer for me in that day?

M. No, of course they cannot.

N*. Then I would not give much for their answering for me now.

M. But is it not said, “Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven? “And, “Do you not judge them that are within?” and “to whomsoever ye forgive anything, I forgive it.”

N*. It is.

M. Then there must be a judge.

N*. But unless you speak of what the apostle’s authority established as binding, which no Christian denies, you are now speaking of discipline, not of a rule of faith. Now I own fully scripture speaks of discipline; 1 Cor. 5:13; 2 Cor. 2:10. When a person was put out, his sins were bound upon him, and when he was forgiven and re-admitted, his sins were loosed. And this is the distinct unequivocal force of a passage you are fond of quoting: “If he will not hear the church, let him be unto thee as a heathen man and a publican.” The subject is a wrong done to a person: he remonstrates; if he recovers his brother, well; if not, he takes two or three more, so that if the person remains obdurate, these are witnesses of all; and then he tells the whole assembly, and if the wrong-doer will not hear the assembly, the injured person may hold him as a person having no claim to be owned as belonging to it; but what has this to do with a rule of faith? And note, just as it was in the Corinthians, the whole assembly was to be listened to, and that to cleanse themselves; 1 Cor. 5.

James. Well, M., you used to quote this passage as if it was a direction for everybody to listen to the church’s teaching, and it has nothing whatever to say to that. It is when some matter of wrong is told to the assembly as the last means of winning a person back from wronging his neighbour, and he will not hearken to the whole assembly, he may then be treated as a heathen that does not belong to it. And I see it is said that, wherever two or three are gathered together in Christ’s name, He is in the midst of them, so that it applies to Christians assembled together.

M. But is it not said, “Go and teach all nations, and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the world”?

N*. Let me remark to you that you are quoting scripture, and you tell me I cannot receive it without the church, nor understand it either.

M. Yes; but the church has sanctioned it.

N*. What church?

M. Why, the Holy Roman Catholic church.

N*. But I do not own it to be the church, nor do I admit that the church can sanction God’s word; it savours to me of blasphemy. You tell me I must have the church first, and we have not got that yet, and therefore you cannot quote it to me. You tell me I must leave it to the church to give authority to the scripture. And now you are quoting scripture to prove the church. That will not do.

James. No, surely, M.; you cannot bring it to prove the church till you have the church to prove it, according to your system. So you ought to prove the church some other way, for according to you the scripture cannot have authority till you have it from the church, and we have not got the church yet for your faith; though I do not contest the Bible.

N*. Quite right, James. You have got no ground yet, and we will therefore surely answer as to it seriously. But when we are inquiring into the rule of faith, this is important, because the Roman Catholic has no real ground for his faith. If the scripture is to prove the authority of the church, the church cannot prove the authority of scripture. If the church is to prove the authority of scripture, we cannot use scripture till we have the church first, as the scripture has none without it.

James. That is clear, M. How does your Dr. Milner get out of that?

M. Why, he says he believes the Catholic church, and everything that she teaches, upon the motives of credibility (namely, her unity, sanctity, etc.), which accompany her. And she brings me the book and tells me it is inspired.

N*. On whose judgment then have you believed the church?—who has judged of these motives of credibility?

M. Well, on my own, of course. I must judge if it is the church.

N*. Clearly, but then you avow that your whole faith depends on private judgment, and not on a divine foundation at all. And, remark, Dr. Milner felt the force of this, and refers to the objection made to him, and seeks to clear it up. Now, in doing this, he is forced to rest the church’s authority on motives of credibility—motives for whom? Man. That is, it is mere human probability. The house cannot be stronger than its foundation. If I have only probability for the church, what the church teaches can only probably have authority. That is, it is no divine authority or divine faith at all. It would be a blasphemy to say, “Probably God says the truth.” The Protestant’s faith is founded on God’s word as such; and motives of credibility can go no farther than private judgment, nay, may vary with each individual in their force. Thus sanctity is alleged to be a proof of the true church.

I read history, and I find that what a Romanist calls the church and infallible is stamped throughout, after history as contrasted with scripture begins, with the most horrible depravity and unholiness of anything on record. Where is the motive of credibility for me? When it rests on motives of credibility, it must rest on private judgment. There is no divine faith at all. Dr. John H. Newman admits there is only a degree of probability, though an immensely strong one. But that is not divine faith. The Romanist has confessedly none.

Dr. Milner says, you receive as a king’s messenger one clothed like one, and you assure yourself he is one, and then accept the letter from the king that he brings, which tells you to mind all he (the messenger) says. But if he was a clever rogue, he might deceive you, and then use the letter to prove you ought to mind him, and get authority over you in everything, and you have only your own judgment to trust to in receiving him. Thus you have nothing but your own judgment to trust to, upon your own shewing, for what you believe.

But let us see a little farther what Dr. Milner’s argument is worth. He believes the church and all that she teaches because of unity, sanctity, etc. Why all that she teaches? There may be unity and sanctity, and yet not present infallibility. This argument will not hold water. Dr. Milner jumps into infallibility before he has even got the scriptures to tell him the church is infallible, a point we will speak of. Then, suppose I deny the unity (and, remember, all the oldest churches reject the Roman Catholic church as erroneous, and the pope’s authority, and of course do not admit their infallibility, and so, we have seen, do the majority rather of Christians), and the sanctity—both of which, in fact, I do entirely deny—all your supposition falls to the ground. If you have to prove them, in the end divine authority rests upon the judgment I form of unity and sanctity, before I have got any revelation at all. How do I know there ought to be but one church? And as there are many, how am I to know which is the right one?— and must I know all history in order to say which has been holy, or which has the right succession, if any, before I can have any right faith? You have no divine foundation for your faith at all, nor the church to give it me. And, supposing I am asked to receive all the church teaches now, why may not I judge of the sanctity and unity at the beginning of her history and believe her to be infallible then, and hear what she says? Ah, you tell me I must not judge by that, but only by what is now. Now this looks suspicious. Why may not I see what the apostles and inspired men taught—what the church, if you please, taught then? Was it not one and holy then?

M. Of course it was.

N*. Was it not more united and holy than now?

M. Well, I suppose it was, for here at least there is not much to boast in that way.

N*. Why may I not then hear it at that time? Then I should listen to Paul and John and Peter and the rest. But you do not seem to like that; you will only allow me to hear people who are not inspired. And where am I to find any inspired teaching, or even the church’s teaching now?

M. You must listen to her pastors.

N*. Are they inspired?

M. No.

N*. Then I have no divine faith in what they say.

M. But they will not mislead you; the priest is seen after by the bishop, and he by them above him.

N*. How can I tell? Is that divine faith? At any rate I do not hear the church, for aught I can tell, in hearing him. We will return to this, for it is a large subject. But on our main point at present, Dr. Milner on his own shewing, though he has been very astute, has no ground to stand upon. And, after all, I am to listen to this church now in those who confessedly are not inspired, and am not allowed to listen to it when apostles and others were inspired. And what does Dr. Milner therefore do? He puts the word of God first, unwritten as well as written, as the rule; and the church as the judge. When pressed (for it is only in a note) he says the church must come first, and be proved by its unity, sanctity, etc., etc., and then come to the word, but this, in fact, he did not dare to do. He had not the unity; he had not the sanctity. He tries to confirm the church’s authority by these marks when he has got the true rule as he says, but, according to his own shewing, he could not get it till he had got the church. But he could not put the church forward, first because he has to prove it had such authority, which could not be proved at all; and next, that the Roman system was that church. It could not be proved that the church had the authority, because, if the church has to be proved first, how am I to know she is infallible?—how can I tell what marks she is to be known by? She cannot adduce scripture to prove it in any way, for what propounds and explains it—that is, the church—we have not got yet. And supposing I admit the church to exist, as I do, for there it is before my eyes; why is it infallible? It tells me so; but is it right in telling me so? I see worldliness, ambition, horrible corruption, disputes, difference of doctrine. Take, for instance, the Dominicans and Franciscans on the immaculate conception. The former, the greatest and most important body for many centuries in their church (and which managed the Inquisition), denied what is now held necessary to be believed as of the faith itself.11

M. But then the pope and the bishops have decided now, and they had not then.

N*. But how do I know the pope and the bishops have the right to decide? Who has made them infallible? I know some pretend the pope is so, and some pretend a general council is, and some say there must be both. But this is a new infallible body. And is it not a strange thing that the church, which you say was to keep people safe in the truth, should have left a vast body, and the most famous doctors, and those who were to decide upon heresy, in error for centuries, and only then settle the truth? How am I to receive all it teaches, or anything, with a divine faith? Hence in fact Dr. Milner puts the word of God first to prove the church before he has proved it to be the word of God, and declaring we cannot tell whether it is. This rule even then rests on no divine faith in his system, because, according to that, I get to the church, and cannot tell if the scriptures, by which its authority is alleged to be taught, are divine. He is cleverly resting on my protestant good faith to hide the weakness of his own cause.

Mark another thing. He puts the proof of the credibility of Christianity in a protestant mouth—in Dr. Carey’s. How comes that? He makes him quote the scriptures as a warrant for the doctrines and miracles of the Lord Jesus. Now he is quite right in doing that, because faith in Christianity cannot be founded on the church; because he who has to learn to believe in Christianity of course does not yet own the church. But here, however cunning, he has given all his position up. I can believe without the church. I have discovered the true religion. And if I have believed in Christianity and the word, I have what I want substantially, and, above all, I recognize the divine authority of the scriptures. You plead, or make the Protestant plead—for as a Roman Catholic you can have no such faith—the words and works of the blessed Jesus. You do well; but where did you get them in order to prove what Christianity is? Have you any account but the scriptures of the words and works of Jesus? Not the smallest iota. Anything that ever pretended to be so is too bad for anyone to allege it as of any authority. You must come to the scriptures to know what Christ said or did. A priest may repeat it from them, or I may, but nothing (with all the boastings of the clergy) has the smallest authority but what is found there.

But then the word has divine authority over my soul; the moment I have Jesus’ words, and the apostles’ words, I have the certainty of divine truth. You have nothing at all but this to prove what Christianity is, and its credibility; and, if I take this and so believe in Christianity, I have already the words of Christ and His apostles, and neither would nor dare but hear them. Do not tell me I cannot understand or believe them. That is the Christianity I have to understand and believe. Now, I do not wish to offend you, M., God forbid, but if I were to take what you call the Catholic church, as it is, or as it was at the time the Reformation took place, or long before, I see, without at all pretending that Protestants are what they ought to be, the greatest scene of wickedness that ever was known on the face of God’s earth. And I should say, if that is what I am to believe as Christianity, God keep me from it. It is a wickedness that revolts an honest moral man, and that in priests, bishops, and popes more than in others. That there is no disputing about before the Reformation.

M. Well, all admit there have been wicked popes and clergy, but that is not the church.

N*. But is it not what you want me to hear? Are they not the people who you say are to secure my having the truth? And as you plead sanctity as a proof of infallible authority, I must at once say, Well it is certainly not to be had here.

M. Well, but that does not change the faith of the church.

N*. Aye, but we are talking about the infallibility of the church, on which my faith is to be divinely founded. And if sanctity, or even unity, is to be a proof of it, it was lost altogether, for the popes were the wickedest of men, and there were two, and even three, at a time denouncing one another as the falsest and wickedest of men; and at last it was so scandalous, that the three who then pretended to be pope were all deposed. Where was sanctity and unity then? Where infallibility? And note, to have it, it must never cease.

M. Well, but it was in the known doctrines of the church.

N*. But I thought we must have a speaking tribunal. And if you found yourself on documents, where are they?

M. Well, there is the Council of Trent and the Catechism of Pope Pius IV.

N*. That was a century later, and if I go to these documents, why may not I go to what Paul and Peter and John wrote? I get it first hand, and I suppose the apostles were as sure as the Council of Trent.

M. Yes, of course; but you may interpret them wrong; and then, if you go to that, they are in Greek; you must come to the pastors of the church.

N*. Well, but I may interpret the decrees of Trent and the Catechism wrong. They are much more obscure than the most of the New Testament. And as to this being in Greek, the decrees and the Catechism are in Latin, and you are not going to tell me that the poor Romanists read them to know their faith; and if I go to the pastor, I am with a fallible man, and can have no divine faith. No, with the word of God I have a divine foundation for my faith, whereas you have none at all. Hence, M., though you have no right to quote the scriptures to me, because you say we cannot tell they are the word of God, and you have not yet proved what and where the true church is; yet, as I do believe they are the word of God, I shall make no objection to your quoting them, so that we will return to the point we left, only it was very important to shew that you Romanists have no divine ground for your faith at all. Your principle is that we cannot tell if the scriptures be the word of God. Hence I cannot have a divine faith in the revelation given. I cannot tell if it is a revelation. If it is, it has divine authority, and I must listen to it. As to the church, you have not proved anything about it yet. But I shall listen to all you say from the word, because, though you have no right to use it, I do not want to cavil, and I own it to be God’s word. We were speaking of “Go and teach all nations, teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always to the end of the world.”

M. Well, is not that a plain proof that the church is secure from error, and that, as the apostles could not live for ever, we must obey their successors?

N*. Who are their successors?

M. Why, all the bishops, and especially the pope, as the successor of St. Peter, the prince of the apostles.

N*. I see nothing about successors. But must I know the succession of bishops of a see before I know what saves my soul? This is a serious question, because there have been three popes at a time. But let us see now if you think God was always with them. For instance, when Pope Julius was the most ardent warrior of his day, or when his predecessor, Pope Alexander VI, carried on a life of dissoluteness without example, seeking to establish his illegitimate children in dukedoms and principalities, to say nothing worse of him (for worse is said, and counted true), and at last was poisoned by what he had prepared to poison a rich cardinal to get his money—was the Lord (may He forgive one for naming such a thing!) with these as with the apostles?

M. Yes, but there are wicked men everywhere.

N*. No doubt. That is not our question; but is the Lord with them as He was with the apostles? That is the question.

James. Why, M., you cannot say that. It would be awful.

N*. Well, when there were two popes for thirty years, and then three for some years more, the two holding their ground against the third, named to put them down, and then this third, probably poisoned by the person who was his successor, and after various fighting in open war, the Emperor succeeded in having a general council, and putting down all three (the last as too infamous to be tolerated)—was the Lord with all these? or with which of them?

M. No, of course not; but He was with the church.

N*. That I believe. But then, in that case, these were not the church. And, remember, your doctrine is that the promise to the apostles was with their successors. And this schism is of the more importance, because it is alleged that the Lord may be with an office when not with the person. But here there were two successors condemning each other, and part of Europe siding with one, and part with the other, and a third condemning both, so that the Lord could not be with them, and neither could secure the truth for us. The truth is, the papacy and all connected with it was such a horrible scene of wickedness, that men got tired of it and put down these popes—and we may well say God, in His mercy, too—and brought about the Reformation. For the Reformation, long cried for by all Christendom, took place about a century after this in another way than was expected; the popes, to whom reformation was left by the council, taking good care not to reform themselves, though not so scandalous as those I have referred to.

M. Well, but there were good popes too.

N*. In the beginning of the history of Christianity there were blessed men in the See of Rome, martyrs among them: only they were not popes of Christendom. Far from it. Yet already in the fifth century the city of Rome was filled with blood and massacres through the conflicts between two contending popes, Symmachus and Laurentius, and at last they had to go to an heretical Arian king to decide the matter. This is the Roman Catholic account (Baronius, vol. 8, p. 619). The dispute too lasted a long time. But, further, when the so-called bishops went to war, as princes at the head of their troops, as happened constantly in the middle ages, particularly in Germany, was the Lord with them as the successors of the apostles? And when they allowed sin for ten florins, as we have seen, was the Lord with them?

James. Well, M., what can you say to this? But is this all certain, sir?

N*. I have stated nothing but what is matter of well-known and authentic history, for which authentic proofs remain, and mainly in councils of the Roman Catholic church. Nor indeed is it possible to go into all the wickedness and horrors that went on.

M. Well, I suppose it cannot be denied that they were dark and evil times; even Catholics admit that. But they were the habits of the age, and the clergy were not wholly exempt.

N*. They do admit it. St. Bernard, as you call him, said Antichrist was at Rome in the eleventh century. But were the successors of the apostles, with whom you allege the Lord was, to follow the habits of the age? Besides, forbidding to marry and then living in sin was the case of the clergy only, and not otherwise the habits of the age, save as the corruption of the clergy corrupted everything around them.

James. But I thought, M., you called the church holy; and what is all this? It is dreadful: how could you think I could take such persons for successors of the apostles?

N*. But again, are all the Greek patriarchs, prelates and clergy who reject the authority of the pope—are they successors of the apostles too?

M. But they are in schism.

N*. Well, but then successors of the apostles are in schism. Is not that a queer thing, and how is the Lord with them so that they can secure my faith? And then there are some sixty millions of professing Christians in schism with them, well nigh half the number of those subject to the pope. And then, note, they are the successors of the apostles, most of them in older churches than that of Rome. How can I be secure in thinking they can guide me according to the promise we are speaking of, “Lo, I am with you always,” when they condemn utterly the pretensions of the one you think, I suppose, infallible?

M. But they hold the same doctrines.

JV*. So your Dr. Milner states; but it is not true, and, begging his pardon, he must have known it was not true. They do not hold the procession of the Holy Ghost from the Son, nor purgatory—the last exercising more influence in the papal body than any other doctrine. I might add the priests marry; only that is practice, not doctrine. Again, when pope Liberius turned Arian to please the Emperor Constantius, and denied the divinity of the Lord Jesus, was the Lord with him as a successor of the apostles? Athanasius, who stood up for the truth of the blessed Lord’s divinity was banished, and died in banishment excommunicated. And even before, in Constantine’s time, when all the prelates, fathers, as they are called, of the Council of Tyre joined in accepting this denial of the truth, and the Arians were recalled, could they pretend the Lord was with them?—or the 800 bishops who at Ariminium denied the divinity of the Lord? There were but 318 in the Council of Nice which affirmed it, only the Emperor’s authority maintained it. Had I trusted the clergy for the truth in Constantius’ days, I must have turned Arian. If I lived in Russia or Turkey now, I must, if I listen to the clergy, hold the pretensions of Rome to be all wrong. If I live at Rome, I must hold the successors of the apostles in the East to be all wrong. Is that all the security you can give me? When I take the scriptures, I have the certainty of having the truth, because I get what you own to be the apostles’ own teaching. But to our point. Is God with all those of whom we have been speaking in their errors, when the pope for example was an Arian, or when there were two?

M. No, of course He was not with them in that. But you see God has preserved the church through it all in spite of all this, and you must hear the church.

N*. We have not got the true church yet. However, you hold, then, that God has preserved the true church not by, but in spite of, these successors of the apostles. That I fully believe, and bless His abundant grace for. He has not permitted the gates of hell to prevail against it. But if anything could have frustrated God’s promise and have destroyed the church, the conduct of the hierarchy would have done so.

M. But He was very often with them too. There were holy godly men, who sacrificed their lives for the truth.

N*. Undoubtedly there were, at any rate in the earlier part of the history, though we might not always agree in judging of the particular cases. But there were some more enlightened, others less. And I am well assured that God was with them in the measure in which they followed the apostles and their doctrine, and so He will now with those who do, and that to the end of the age. He was fully with the apostles, and will be with all those who serve Him like them according to the measure given unto them. But this does not make the popes and prelates who are not all like them any security for the truth.

I believe then fully in the promise given, and that the Lord was with the apostles and will be with all those who so serve Him. And you are forced to admit that with the mass of your successors of the apostles the Lord is not. And your Dr. Milner looks at it, when it suits him, in the same way, for he couples with the passage we are speaking of, another from Mark, “Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.” I add, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved, and he that believeth not shall be damned.” Now, in this work I do not doubt that the Lord is with those who serve Him; but then your successors of the apostles are not that in their office. They rule over the flock where people are all professing Christians. Christ is speaking in Matthew of making disciples of the heathen. In Mark too He is speaking of the conversion to Christianity of those who were strangers to it. He is not speaking of the care of the church, nor of successors in that at all.

And mark here the importance of a distinction I was making with James before you came. Dr. Milner says the unwritten word was the means of propagating the doctrines. Now I admit that fully, and it may be, and is still; but that does not make the preacher a rule of faith. A means of propagating is not a rule of faith. This fallacy runs all through the book.

M. But Christ promised the Comforter should abide for ever, and that He would teach the apostles all things and bring all things to their remembrance, whatsoever He had said to them.

N*. Both these statements I believe with all my heart, as Christ’s own words. But, allow me to say, if He taught the apostles all things and brought all things to their remembrance, two things are clear: first, that all was taught them then, and all brought to remembrance then, and that of Christ’s teaching nothing more is to be learnt than what they thus received. On this point Tertullian largely insists; and, better still, the apostle John. He tells us that, if we abide in what was from the beginning, we shall abide in the Father and in the Son; next, that it was to them only He then spoke, for He says, “to bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said to you.” This can apply only to the apostles, and we have to inquire, How do we get what was thus taught them, whether directly by the Holy Ghost or by His bringing to remembrance Christ’s words?

M. That is true; but the Comforter was to abide for ever.

N*. So I am fully persuaded He does, but not to teach new truths, for all were taught to the apostles. He may, morally speaking, lead us to think of what Christ says, but cannot properly do what He did to the apostles. And the passage is an unfortunate one, for Judas (not Iscariot) asks the Lord how He would manifest Himself to them and not to the world, and the Lord tells him, “If a man love me, he will keep my words, and my Father will love him, and we will make our abode with him.” So that the way the Comforter abides with the apostles and their successors, if you please, is with those who love Him and keep His word. Thus it is the Lord Himself carries on the succession, not by offices. Now, I admit, in the fullest way, that there are gifts, “pastors and teachers,” by which the Lord edifies His people individually and collectively. But these, all admit, are not rules of faith. They are a means of blessing, not a rule of faith.

So that, if we examine the passage, we find that all was taught to the apostles, and that the true presence of the Spirit is with those who love Christ and keep His word. There is no promise whatever to official successors. There is one to the apostles, the end of the age being unrevealed; but there is not one word of official successors as objects of the promise. To allege it is only a supposition that it must be: a pretension often loudest in the wickedest now, to be the successors of the apostles. And when Judas asks how the Lord could be present, it is explained in another way by the Lord. Christ, who had been their Comforter or Paraclete, was going away from the disciples. This was a deep sorrow, an affecting loss. He promises another, who should not thus leave them, but ever abide with them. And surely as long as the church remains the Holy Ghost will remain. Who has Him dwelling in him is another question. The Lord says He is with those who love Him and keep His word.

Now as all truth was taught to the apostles, one question is, How can we have this securely and surely as they had it? But that there were any successors to the apostles in the true sense of the word I entirely deny. First, in a mass of places churches were found in which they never were, so that there was no proper successor to an apostle, for there was no apostle to succeed to. There may have been godly administrative care and teaching by those called and sent of God, and a great blessing too; but no proper successors of the apostles where there were no apostles to succeed.

But I go farther into the root and heart of the thing than this. There was no successor to an apostle at all as to what he was as an apostle. No one was chosen, sent directly by the Lord Himself, and this is what an apostle means. It is a name given by Christ. No pretended successor could say as Paul (and the rest too) “not of man, nor by man.” The pretension to be a successor denies the person being in an apostle’s place; for it denies that immediate relationship to Christ, which alone constitutes apostleship. The Timothys and Silvanuses and the rest, precious as they were to the church, were by man; or simply gifts without any local office, as the prophets. An apostle, in the nature of things, cannot have a successor in any official place in the church. For such successor is as such not the founder of the church as an eye-witness, and sent directly by Christ as such. Nobody pretends that those called successors of the apostles are inspired to make revelations. Individually they have no pretension to be considered in any respect as successors of an apostle. Nor was it (unless possibly at Jerusalem, and this is quite uncertain) the office of an apostle to govern any particular see, nor did any, unless the case I have just alluded to, and then that was not the apostolic office.

But I go farther. There is distinct proof that the apostles themselves recognized no successors. Paul insists on the diligent care of the elders, because he had no successor. This is very distinct. He knew (Acts 20) that after his decease grievous wolves would enter in, and perverse men would arise. Who, after his decease, if he was to have a successor? Evil would spring up because there was not an apostle to check or control it by his spiritual energy and consequent authority. He urges the elders, those whom the Holy Ghost had made overseers, to watch—a thing wholly out of place if another was to succeed him and take his place. Some say Timothy was afterwards bishop of Ephesus. There is no evidence of it, but the contrary; but if he were, it upsets the theory altogether, for the same authorities tell us John was at Ephesus, so that we have an apostle there governing and guiding, and yet a successor at the same time to do it as if the apostle were gone.

So Peter says, seeing his departure was near, that he would take care they should have these things always in remembrance, and writes his Epistle; but if he had a successor who was to secure the truth, and it be not the scriptures which are to do it through grace, he made a great mistake in the whole matter. Paul therefore, and Peter and John practically too, all deny the whole theory on which the Romish system is founded. They know no successor, deny by their words that there will be such, and give other means of security as regards the truth; for Paul is still clearer than Peter as to the scriptures. Not only does he commend the elders of Ephesus to God and the word of His grace, but he tells us positively that in the last days perilous times should come; that the professing church would be in a horrible state, having a form of godliness but denying the power of it; and that we should turn away from such; and that the security of the faithful Christian would be the scriptures, which are able to make us wise unto salvation. Not a word of tradition, but the contrary; for Timothy is made to rely on knowing of whom he had learned the things he knew. This was Paul himself.

James. Where is that, sir?

N*. In 2 Timothy 3. He says evil men and seducers would wax worse and worse, but Timothy was to continue in what Paul himself had taught, and hold fast to the scriptures as able to make him wise unto salvation, and make the man of God perfect. Thus the apostle had no thought of anything else than apostolic teaching, and the scriptures as the security of the faithful in the perilous times of the last days. And you see too, plainly, that instead of such security and right conduct and good state of the church continuing through the care of the successors of the apostles perilous times were to come; and indeed at the end, as he tells us in 2 Thessalonians 2, an apostasy; and that when the state of the professing church made it perilous for the saint, the scriptures and the certain teaching of the apostle himself would be the means of securing us by faith in Christ Jesus. The Christian would have to be secured in perils arising from the state of the church. Paul does not refer to the hierarchy as the safeguard, but to the scriptures and Timothy’s knowing who had taught him.

James. That is very clear, M.; because, if the state of the church was so evil as to make it perilous, it could not be a security for him who desired to walk right; and if I read what Paul says I do know of whom I have learned it, and that and the other scriptures will keep us through faith in Christ.

M. But you may take a false meaning out of them. Every kind of notion and religion is come out of scripture.

James. That I do not believe, because both you and I believe they are the truth of God, and therefore error cannot come out of them. That people, if they are not humble, and if they read scripture with their heads and not depending upon grace, may follow their own thoughts and wrest scripture to prove them—this may be; but they cannot get anything but perfect truth out of scripture, that you dare not deny. If they are proud, wise in their own conceits, they will reap the consequence of it, but grace will keep the humble soul. Besides, I may take a wrong meaning out of what your books or priest teach me. And, further, I do not despise at all the help of those whom God has sent and fitted to teach and help us: only they are not the rule of faith. They cannot, I see they cannot, have the authority God’s word has; they are not inspired. I must prove all things, and hold fast that which is good. That is what the apostle tells us to do; 1 Cor. 10:15.

M. Why you are growing quite a little teacher yourself, James. What can a poor man like you know about it?

James. I know well I am not a learned man, M.; but I have faith in what I find in scripture, and therefore am certain of the truth that is in it. Ought not I to believe what Paul says?

M. Of course; but how can you tell what he meant?

James. By what he says; and do you not believe that the grace of God will help a poor man as well as a learned one in what concerns his soul?

M. Well, I do not gainsay that.

James. And the blessed Lord who cared for the poor said, that the Father hid these things from the wise and prudent and revealed them to babes: “even so, Father, for so it seems good in thy sight.” And Paul says, “If any man will be wise in this world, let him become a fool that he may be wise.” And the Psalm says, “The entering in of thy word giveth light and understanding to the simple.”

M. Where do you get all this scripture, James?

James. Why, by reading it to be sure. You pretend we cannot understand it, M., and you have never tried. Read it, and try and see if it is not light and food for the soul. Of course we need grace for this, as for every blessing. And tell me, M., to whom did the Lord speak when He was teaching, the learned or the poor?

M. Why, they say the poor. The scribes and Pharisees would not listen to Him.

James. And do you think He spoke so that they could understand Him if their hearts were not hardened? Alas, there are many such, poor and rich.

M. Well, I suppose, of course He did.

James. And why should not I, if I humbly seek His help? I do not know Greek of course, but (thank God) it has been put into English, and I can trust Him to get the truth from it. I am not looking for a learned knowledge of it, but for the edification of my soul. Read it in your own translation. There is one they approve of, read it in that, if you won’t have ours. I do not believe the blessed Lord meant to make a way for learned men to get to heaven and not for the poor. He says “to the poor the gospel is preached”; and the apostle, “not many wise men, not many rich, not many noble are called, but God hath chosen the foolish things of this world to confound the wise.” Yet he wrote almost all his Epistles to these very people.

M. Well, what you say there, James, is reasonable. I should like to see what scripture does say; but I do not know whether Father O. will allow me.

James. Father O.! But what right can Father O. have to hinder your hearing what God has said to you? Who gave him the right to keep away from the poor God’s word that was once written to the poor? For, as Mr. N*. said, the Epistles, save a few, were written to all the Christians in a place, not to the clergy.

M. Well, but you do not know whether he will hinder me.

James. Perhaps not. They would not be apt to do it when all around can read them; but how comes he to have the right to hinder? or how comes it you are dependent on another man as to whether you may hear what God has said?

M. Well, I doubt that is right too. But surely we ought to obey those who have the rule over us.

James. I have nothing against that, for the scriptures say so. But how comes it they only give you these scraps of them? If one of the family would not let me see my father’s will, pretending he was wiser than me, and I was no lawyer, and I should only take a wrong sense out of it, I should not, as a man, like it. I am not a lawyer, and he might be better able to explain lawyer’s words in it; but I should like to know what my father did say. Some of it might be plain and for me, and I should know if he was keeping something back from me that was mine in what was plain. I should like to see it. And when one does see the scripture, one sees that God meant us to see it.

N*. Yes, and that is a very important point; because it is not merely going against our rights, as between man and man, but against God’s rights as to His own people. And Dr. Milner lets out that Rome does not wish Christians in general to see the scriptures. He says she has confirmed her decrees by them. She enjoins her pastors to read and study them. Finally she proves her perpetual right to announce and explain the truths, etc., by several of the strongest and clearest passages (Lett. 10), but not a word of the faithful seeing or reading them. And James is quite right in what he supposes: where there are many Protestants, the Bible is allowed, and occasionally to those they feel sure of elsewhere, with notes; but otherwise it is not thought of, and Dr. Milner could not speak of liberty to read the scriptures existing, because it is formally denied by the highest authority of the Romish system.

The Index of prohibited books has been referred to a committee by the Council of Trent. In the last session this was referred to the pope, and the pope sanctioned the rules they had laid down. In the fourth rule, if a person shall have presumed to read or to have a copy without the express permission of the parish priest or confessor, he cannot receive absolution till the Bible be given up; and a bookseller who sells or otherwise lets a person have one is to forfeit the value for pious uses, and undergo other penalties. Dr. Milner therefore says the Catholic church does not cast any slight on the scriptures. He could not say Christians were free to read them, and M. must get leave from his priest to do so, and that in writing (Rule 4 at the end of Council of Trent), or he would not get absolution.

The Romish system interferes with God’s rights—His title to send His own message to His own people; and no one denies that in the primitive churches all were free to read, and encouraged to read, the scriptures. St. Chrysostom insists on it. Nor does Pope Gregory VII (Hildebrand) conceal that many things were done by the early Fathers which were changed by the church in after times, on a critical examination of the matter. God has addressed His word to the people, not, save a very small part (three epistles), to the clergy, and the clergy have taken them away—taken away, as the Lord says, the key of knowledge.

M. And do you not think ignorant people may wrest the scriptures to their own destruction, as it is said?

N*. I think anyone may, if he does not look for God’s grace to help and guide him. But I do not think ignorant people do it a thousandth part as much as learned ones, because they come to it more simply as God’s word, and respect it. Whereas the learned, thinking they are able to exercise their minds on it and judge about it, do not receive it as little children. Heresies have not come from the ignorant, but from doctors.

God has given the scriptures to the people, and the clergy of Rome have taken them from them. And it is to God they will answer. Augustine insists largely in his book on the unity of the church (chap. 10) against the Donatists, who insisted, just as the Romanists do now, on the obscurity of scripture.

We now turn to another part of your rule of faith—tradition. Your Dr. Milner says, Paul puts the written and unwritten word upon a level, leaving us to suppose that this last is tradition.

James. And I thought that was tradition—a doctrine handed down from one to another.

N*. It is not, in the New Testament, except where it is condemned, when the Lord says, “Thus have ye made the word of God of none effect by your tradition.” Where remark, that traditions are put expressly in contrast with the word of God. The word of God was complete in itself, and their traditions set it aside, and so do Romanist traditions.

But the passage which Dr. Milner quotes proves that tradition is not used as he uses it. Where the word is used of written and unwritten, the written is called tradition as well as the unwritten. It means any doctrine delivered. Now if Paul delivered a doctrine to me by word of mouth, I ought of course to observe it as if it was in one of his epistles. There is no difference: only that I might forget or change it if it were not written. Here is Paul’s phrase— “Stand fast, and hold the tradition ye have been taught, whether by word or our epistle.” Of course, what he had taught as truth, they ought to keep. Tradition means what he had taught.

But where are the doctrines which Paul taught which are not found in scripture? They have none to produce: we shall see this just now. Dr. Milner tells us an old wife’s tale about the apostles agreeing upon a short symbol, a story which everyone knows to have no foundation. The Apostles’ Creed is the Roman creed, with some additions, and the creed of the church of Aquileia, in the fifth century, preserved by Ruffinus, the descent into hell being added afterwards. But, further, a very just and important remark has been made by another as to the way tradition is spoken of by the Fathers, on whom Dr. Milner chiefly rests his case. The word is not used as meaning a source of additional doctrines, an unwritten word besides the written, but as a sure proof of the true faith to be received, and way of knowing the right use of scripture. Tradition for them was a testimony to scriptural truth of a surer kind, as they alleged, not a communication of additional truths besides the scripture. They charged heretics with pretending to a tradition of this kind. They as often appeal to the scriptures against everything else as to tradition; but with them tradition is not a source of additional truths, but a surer proof, as they say, of common truths. Now, I admit freely that, supposing the apostles had not left us the scriptures, men ought to have followed tradition (that is, what the apostles taught) when they had it. The question is, first, would it have secured the preservation of the apostles’ doctrine? The apostles thought not, and left us the New Testament—that is, really, the Holy Ghost did. But, secondly, now they have left us the scriptures, are we not to use them? and are we not to reject everything contrary to them, even if it pretends to be a tradition?

We will now see what the Fathers say about it, as Dr. M. quotes them. The early Fathers, those near to the time of the apostles, appeal to tradition, not as an additional source of truth, but a security for truth against heresy, against new doctrines, proving by what everybody held all over the world that such heresy was new. Now, though not an authority, it might be useful as a proof of this when it was universal. But as to its securing the certainty of teaching, it cannot, and so God thought, and gave His people a book. History has shewn that it does not, for doctrines have changed. Afterwards tradition came to be appealed to as an independent source of like authority, because the scriptures did not contain a multitude of superstitions which came in; and at last the scriptures were taken away, because they condemned well nigh all that was done and taught, as a certain Peter Sutor (a.d. 1525), a Carthusian monk, innocently confesses, that “the people will be apt to murmur when they see things required, as from the apostles, which they find not a word of in scripture.” Whence he concludes it was a rash, useless, and dangerous thing to translate them.

Irenaeus, for example, uses tradition as a security for truth, not as revealing other things besides what is in scripture. The quotation from Tertullian surprises me, because this same Tertullian, after saying the traditions of the different episcopal sees secured the faith, left what called itself the Catholic church, because its state was so bad. It did not secure his faith. Not only so, but the particular tract Dr. Milner quotes was assuredly written when he had left the universal church to become a Montanist, or, at any rate, accepted the Montanist rhapsodies as prophecy, for he says in the first chapter, No wonder they would not face martyrdom, when they reject the prophecies of the Spirit, that is, of the Paraclete, so called, of Montanus. Even here he only insists on rites and ceremonies, and on no doctrine of faith, saying, that if certain ceremonies have been always used they are to be observed, and it is to be assumed there was some tradition as their origin—just shewing that it was to justify superstitious practices they began to use tradition because there was no scripture for them.

The other proofs of Dr. Milner are drawn from authors from the end of the fourth to the end of the fifth century after Christ, when every perplexity of doctrine, and the grossest relaxation of practice, had come into the church, so that they were glad to get anything to rest their foot upon. Popes had denied the divinity of Christ. The bishops had killed the poor old archbishop of Constantinople by blows in one of their councils, and the vices of the clergy were such that they surely did require something not in scripture to support them. What I have said I will justify when we speak of the marks of the true church. But it will be well to examine the point of tradition a little closer. We will take Tertullian, because he is the first that speaks largely of it in the tract Dr. M. refers to. Here are the points for which he refers to tradition as an authority:—

“Therefore let us inquire whether tradition also should be received if it be not a written one. We will deny that it is to be received if no examples of other observances which we defend, without any written document, on the ground of tradition alone, and then, by the patronage of custom, prejudge the case. Finally, that I may begin with baptism. When we are approaching the water, there but a little before in the assembly, under the hand of the president, we witness that we renounce the devil, and his pomps, and his angels; then we are immersed three times, answering something more than the Lord determined in the gospel. Received back [from the water], we taste a mixture of milk and honey, and from that day abstain from our daily washing for a week. The sacrament of the Eucharist, which was received from the Lord at a time they were eating, and committed to all to celebrate, we take in meetings held before daylight, and not from the hand of others than the president. We make offerings for the dead. We celebrate the anniversaries of martyrs. We count it a wickedness to fast on the Lord’s day, or to worship on our knees. We enjoy the same immunity from Easter to Pentecost. We are grieved if any even of our own cup or bread drop on the ground. At every progress and advance, at coming up or going out, in clothing, putting on our shoes, washing at tables, when we bring the lights, when we go to bed, when we sit down, whatever we are engaged in, we sign our forehead with the cross. If you ask scripture for the law of these and other like practices, you will find none. Tradition will be alleged to you to be the source. Custom has confirmed it, and faith observes it.”

Now that none of these observances are found in scripture I fully admit. But we see what tradition was worth—not kneeling on Sunday, giving a taste of milk and honey to the newly-baptized, and such like futilities, which, not being in scripture, they alleged tradition for. Now it is well to see what the earliest tradition was worth. You have it from Dr. Milner’s witness for us; we were to take him as a guide in our inquiry; I have examined what he has alleged. But then I have a few remarks to make here. Had these traditions the authority of the word of God, the alleged unwritten word? The triune immersion in baptism, which some took for a sign of the Trinity, some for three days of Christ’s being in the grave—Jerome of the unity too—was insisted upon by Tertullian, Basil, and Jerome, as coming from tradition, Chrysostom refers it to the words of Christ Himself in sending His disciples; Matt. 28. And the so-called apostolical canons order a bishop or presbyter to be deposed who should administer baptism not by three immersions, but by only one in the name of Christ. Pope Pelagius condemns it too, and founds the practice on Christ’s words in Matthew. So, it appears, does Theodoret, who accuses Eunomius of changing baptism in not immersing thrice; so Sozomen.

Here, if ever, we have a tradition of the highest character and greatest authority. Alas! it is given up. The Arians used it, and in Spain this alarmed the orthodox, and many gave it up, and others would not, and the whole country was in a practical state of schism. Leander, of the See of Seville, wrote to Gregory the Great. He answers: “Concerning the triune immersion in baptism, nothing can be answered more truly than what thou hast felt, that in one faith a different custom does no harm to the holy church; but in being thrice immersed we mark a sacrament of the three days’ burial, as when the infant is taken up the third time out of the water, the resurrection on the third day is expressed. But if anyone thinks that there is an assertion of the exalted Trinity therein, neither as to this is there any hindrance to being plunged only once; since, as there is one substance in three Persons, it can in no way be reprehensible that an infant should be immersed once or thrice in baptism, since in three immersions the trinity of persons, in one the unity of the divinity is designated; but now, as infants are baptized by the heretics with three immersions, I judge that it should not be done among you,” Greg, lib. 1, ep. 41, ad Leand.

Still the pope’s advice did not succeed in stopping the schism. The Spanish Council of Toledo decided that, though, as Gregory judged, both were perfectly innocent, yet they should only immerse once, and comfort all parties by saying that the plunging is a sign of death; the coming up of resurrection; the one immersion, of the unity of the Godhead; the three names, of the Trinity of persons. (Cone. Toledo 4, can. 5.) So this tradition, enforced by deposition from office in the canons which tradition asserted to be those of the apostles, as the same tradition did the creed to be theirs, came to an end. And faith observed it no more. How certain an authority it is ! You cannot complain of the choice I have made; it is Dr. Milner’s own. I suppose Roman Catholics kneel on Sunday, and from Easter to Pentecost too; so that what Tertullian alleges to be tradition observed by faith has no authority at all.

I shall refer to what Irenaeus says of scripture just now. I do not quote him as to tradition, because his use of it is to appeal to the universal voice of the church to confirm his reasonings from the word against heretics, which is quite another thing from Dr. Milner’s use of the word.

But a word more as to Tertullian, who was a lawyer and also a great stickler for church prescription, which is only a principle of Roman civil law, and what Dr. Milner quotes only an advocacy in the terms of Roman law. One question is, Can the authority of tradition secure us in the faith? The answer is, Tertullian himself who insists on it received, at the time he wrote this, the Montanist rhapsodies, as inspiration and the Comforter, and went amongst them, leaving that which he said alone had authority. The most important of his traditions which was universal was given up, Pope Gregory very wisely saying that, if there was unity of faith, such things were of no consequence. How futile most of his traditions are, anyone can see. They are notions and practices crept in from a lively imagination, and that is all; but a dangerous thing in the church of God, because a long observed custom becomes a matter of faith for many.

M. But have we not the Apostles’ Creed by tradition, and that they composed it before they went away to preach?

N*. The Apostles’ Creed, as the church has it now, was composed at different times, and no two churches hardly had just the same. “The Communion of Saints,” for example, was added quite late; “the holy church” earlier; the word “Catholic” again later still. The descent into hell was not there at all in the Roman creed called the Apostles’. And it was added very late indeed; it appears in the creed of Aquileia, in the fourth century. As to the apostles making a creed, as Dr. Milner alleges, I am surprised he should quote such a fable; for such it is now, I suppose, universally owned to be. All the creeds are called apostolic, meaning they contain apostolic doctrine. What is now called the Apostles’ Creed was the creed of the Roman church with one or two articles added.

This story of the apostles composing it does not appear before the fourth century, and then the story went rapidly farther; for an author, passing under the name of Augustine, gives us the particular article contributed by each apostle. But all this is trumpery and contrary to known history, for it is known that many articles were added, as I have said, quite late in the church’s history. Dr. Milner urges, too, that they (the apostles) profess belief in the church (Lett. 10), not in scripture. This is an unfortunate observation. The authors of the creed were stating objects of faith, what they did believe, not sources of revelation, nor the authority for their believing it. They do not speak of believing in tradition either: both would have been absurd, because the question was briefly what they believed, not why, or where they found it.

But, further, the author quoted by Dr. Milner—he who tells us the apostles made the creed—Ruffinus charges his readers to remark that they are not called on to believe in the church (that is, have confidence in it as an authority and source of faith), but only to believe the church—that is, that there was such a thing. If anyone says that it is just the same with every article that they are all objects of faith whether there be “in “or not, I shall not contest with him. However Dr. Milner’s (Lett. 10) authority presses strenuously the remark that we are only to believe the objective fact that there is a church, but not to believe in it—that is, draws exactly the opposite conclusion to that for which Dr. M. quotes him. He says, “By this syllable of a preposition (believing the church, instead of in the church) the Creator is separated from the creatures, and divine things are separated from human.” (Ruffinus in Symb. Apostolorum); and St. Augustine and after him the schoolmen insist on the difference in principle.

But I must return a moment to a remark I made to you. The word “tradition “is shamefully abused. No one doubts that the disciples ought to receive whatever the apostles taught by word of mouth. The question is whether we can have it now handed down unwritten outside scripture. Now the scripture and the earliest writers used the word simply in the sense of teaching; as in the passage quoted by Dr. Milner, “the tradition which ye have received by word or our epistle.” That had not been handed down. Paul had taught them by word of mouth; he had taught them by letter: they were to receive both. Of course they were; but they had received both directly from the apostle; there was no handing down. It means his teaching, and he uses it so elsewhere. Now it is dishonest trifling to use this to prove what is alleged when the word is used in another sense. Tradition means now what is handed down unwritten from one to another, the unwritten word as distinguished from scripture. Paul says, tradition by letter or words. It is not the same thing he speaks of. The duty of receiving what Paul taught by word of mouth has nothing to do with proving that handing down by words of mouth means our having what was not written by them. Ignatius, as quoted by Eusebius, uses tradition as Paul does— that is, as apostolic teaching.

James. Well, M., that seems quite clear. When Paul speaks of tradition by letter or word, he does not use it as you do now, and Dr. Milner ought not to have quoted it. It has nothing to do with the matter.

N*. We say Paul and the rest did teach by word of mouth; but what God meant for the church in all ages he caused them to commit to writing. Now first let us see how the Lord speaks and acts in this respect. He does speak of tradition, when it was something handed down added to the written word; and thus the scribes and Pharisees asked Him why His disciples transgressed the tradition of the elders. “But he answered and said unto them, Why do ye also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition? … Thus have ye made the commandment of God of none effect by your tradition”: adding from Esaias, “In vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.” Now we charge the Romanists with this. They worship God in vain, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. They have taken away one of the ten commandments, and made two of the last to make out the ten, and added six commandments of the church (others make eight, dividing one, and adding one—to pay tithes). They are to be binding as God’s commandments, besides a hundred other human ordinances.

James. Is that true, M.?

M. The church has given commandments besides the ten.

James. And left out the second?

M. Deuteronomy proves that it is only a part of the first, and that the last two are distinct, for they are in a different order from Exodus.

N*. But you have left out the second and divided the tenth, and that second is, “Thou shalt not make to thyself any graven image, or the likeness of anything that is in heaven or on earth.” And you have made graven images and set them up in all your churches, and in your streets and roads, where you can.

James. Well, I had no thought of what their doctrine was. My wife might well say that it was not Christianity as God gave it. Why, a child may see that.

N*. The Lord never appeals to tradition but openly condemns it, and appeals to scripture, saying it cannot be broken. The apostles never do, but always quote the scriptures, not only so, but foreseeing by the prophetic Spirit what would come on the church, they tell us our security would be the divinely-inspired scriptures, and Timothy’s knowing the person who had taught the doctrine which thus only could have authority, and so of us. And Peter expressly says he would take care they should have the testimony of God, and writes his epistle, clearly shewing that thus, and thus only, and not by oral tradition, the truth would remain and be secured to them.

Further, the Romanist cannot tell us one truth with any knowledge of whom it came from—cannot authenticate as apostolic a single tradition. Paul does refer to what he had taught by word of mouth without repeating it in writing. “Now ye know what letteth.” Now here the Romanists cannot supply anything by tradition at all. Where tradition (if of any value) would come in they can say nothing at all. Yet they have the Fathers very clear upon this. They have a church tradition upon this. The apostle says that, when this hindrance was removed, the man of sin would come. Now the Fathers taught it was the Roman empire; and prayed for its continuance, persecuting as it was, that the dreadful time of Antichrist might not come. But there they were all wrong. The Roman empire is gone and the man of sin not come, however much the pope may have his spirit. See the wisdom of scripture.

Now, as an external hindrance the Roman empire may have been what hindered (though the presence of the church on earth with the Holy Ghost dwelling in it I believe to have been the cause); but if the apostle had said, in what God was giving for all ages, it was the Roman empire, it would have turned out subsequently to have been inexact. And therefore the Spirit of God, in what was written, left it in terms the import of which are to be learned by the spiritual mind from the word. The Fathers may have been right that the external hindrance then was the Roman empire. I can suppose Paul may have even spoken of this as the then hindrance; but by leaning on tradition they went all wrong. The Holy Ghost for all ages only taught the general truth. The tradition has proved false, and the body that trusts to it now cannot supply one word to say what it meant.

Now I do not own the smallest authority in the Fathers. I own it in nothing but the word of God; but, as they have been quoted, I shall quote them as to the scripture, to shew they argued exactly in an opposite way to which Dr. Milner quotes them for. I recognize no authority of any kind in the Fathers, for the simple reason that they neither give us, nor pretend to give us, any revelation from God. Whether they have given the doctrine of the apostles correctly is easily ascertained by comparing them with the apostles’ writings; and as a general fact I affirm that they do not, and this on all the most vital subjects. It is all nonsense to talk of their judgment being surer than ours, because the scriptures are not easy to understand. I answer, the scriptures are just as easy to understand as the Fathers. If they are to be the rule of faith they are in Latin and Greek, and instead of one volume full of truth and riches, I have masses of folios, with some good things in them here and there, but a vast quantity of confusion, heresy, and trash. If I am to take them as witnesses of what the apostles taught, it is much simpler to take the apostles’ own writings. However I shall refer to them, since they are quoted and made a parade of, to shew how little ground there is for trusting what is said of them, or, I must add, what they say.

Irenaeus, whom Dr. Milner quotes, begins the reasonings of the passage thus (Contra Haereses, lib. 3, chap. 3):—“We have not known the dispositions of our salvation but by those by whom the gospel came to us, which, indeed, they then preached, but afterwards by the will of God have delivered to us in writings, which were to be the foundation and column of our faith. Nor is it right to say they preached before they had a perfect knowledge.” He then refers to the Gospels as flowing from their teaching.

In the second chapter we come to the key of the whole matter. The Valentinian heretics against whom he wrote (who held it was a bad God that made the world and gave the Old Testament), finding they could not prove their doctrines by scripture, pretended there were other doctrines which the apostles taught and had not written, appealing, that is, as Romanists do—for it is the old heretical story—to the unwritten word known by tradition. “For when,” he says, “they are convicted out of the scriptures, they turn to accusations against the scriptures themselves, as if they were not right, nor of authority, and because things are variously said there, and because the truth cannot be found out from them by those who are ignorant of tradition, for that was not delivered in writing, but viva voce.” Thus, what Dr. Milner insists on is exactly what these horrible heretics insisted on, and Irenaeus’ language is. The Fathers had no such tradition, but believed in one supreme God. The heretics appealed to unwritten tradition, because the scriptures were not clear, nor could be understood without tradition, and that there were things taught by tradition besides the scriptures.

Irenaeus then takes them on their own ground, and says, “Let them take their own ground. How can we have surer tradition than in the churches founded by apostles, and especially Rome, where Peter and Paul both were? None of them teach, nor have taught, that there was a bad God.” He does not appeal to them for any doctrine not contained in the word, but to confirm his reasonings, taken from the scriptures, against the spurious traditions of these heretics; and adds then that missionaries, who taught heathens who are utterly barbarous without written documents, taught no such doctrine, and their testimony was to be received. In this way Irenaeus uses the common faith of the church to refute a pretended tradition, saying that what the apostles taught was written down, and condemning the appeal to an unwritten word for something not in scripture. Only he shews that tradition, if heretics would have it, rejected them. Remember then, that Irenaeus is arguing against heretics, because they appealed to tradition as revealing doctrines not in scripture, and interpreting scripture itself, and resists this doctrine, adding that if you appeal to the universal consent of the churches they confirm what he alleges from scripture. It is the Romanists who take the ground which the godly Irenaeus denounces as the conduct of the heretics, who insisted there was tradition besides scripture, and that scripture could not be rightly used without it.

It is the same in substance, but yet stronger, in the case of Tertullian, who is blindly quoted as the great authority for tradition. He too complains of the heretics for affirming that the apostles taught doctrines besides what is in scripture, alleging sometimes that they did not know all things, sometimes that they did not teach all things publicly. And he declares that these heretics quote certain passages of scripture to shew that there were secret doctrines which they did not teach to all, founding the doctrine of an unwritten tradition on them. The very same course is pursued by the Roman doctors to prove there is an unwritten tradition besides scripture. Tertullian declares there was no such thing; but that the apostles taught publicly all they had received to teach, first by word of mouth, and then afterwards in their epistles; and, denying these heretics to be Christians at all, he says they ought to be, according to the scriptures rejected after one rebuke (a mistake of his, by the bye, Paul says a first and second), and not after disputation, and that Christians had better not dispute with them.

Now, though declamatory and loose, there is a great deal of truth in this. But I will shew you from the passage the exactness of what I have said. He speaks as one weak and vexed, but with a great deal of truth, though on some points we shall see his reasoning is defective at any time, and wholly useless for the purpose Romanists quote it for. He speaks of the twelve (strange to say, he does not notice Paul here) being sent forth and promulgating the same faith, and founding churches in each city, from which other churches afterwards borrowed in turn the continuation of the faith and seeds of doctrine, and yet, says he, “borrow, and thus are counted apostolic, as the offspring of apostolic churches. It is necessary that every kind of thing should be estimated according to its origin. Therefore so many and so great [as the] churches [may be], that first one [founded by] the apostles, from which all are [derived], is one; so all are the first and apostolic, while all together approve unity… Here therefore we found our prescription. If the Lord Jesus Christ sent the apostles to preach, others are not to be received as preachers than those Christ instituted; since none knew the Father but the Son, and he to whom He has revealed Him, nor does the Son appear to have revealed Him to others than to the apostles, whom He sent to preach surely that which He had revealed to them. But what they have preached, that is, what Christ revealed to them, and here I use prescription (the Roman form of pleading), that it ought not to be otherwise proved, but by these churches which the apostles themselves founded by preaching to them, as well viva voce (by word of mouth), as men say, as afterwards by epistles… Let us communicate with the apostolic churches,

because none have a different doctrine; this is the testimony of truth.” He then insists largely that all was revealed to the apostles, and that there could not be any other doctrine added which they had not. Now note here that he insists on the epistles as containing these same truths that were taught. But suppose I follow now Tertullian’s advice, and that I go to the churches which the apostles founded. They have pretty nearly disappeared. I go to Jerusalem, and I find such fighting for the Holy Sepulchre between Armenians, Greeks, and Romanists, of different ways of thinking, that the Turks are obliged to have troops and men with whips to keep order.

The churches founded by apostles have almost disappeared by the judgment of God, they were become so corrupt. Rome was not founded by apostles. That is certain, for Paul writes a letter to them, and to a church there, before any apostle had been there, and when he went there he was a prisoner. In fine, if I go to the places which the apostles did found, as far as they subsist, they reject the Romish church altogether, and Rome is striving to gain proselytes from them. They are Greeks, Armenians, Jacobites. In result these early Fathers did not use tradition as giving additional truths, but as the common consent of the churches, to shew that their statements from scripture were sound and true, and that none had ever held what the heretics advanced. That the heretics’ opinions began since the apostles, and therefore could not be true, because the apostles had been guided into all truth. Tertullian says, if the heretics were in the apostles’ time, they are condemned, being only now somewhat more refined in form; or they were not in the apostles’ time, and their later origin condemns them.12

Now that is exactly what is the truth as to the doctrines of Romanism. Peter Lombard, in the twelfth century, was the first who taught there were just seven sacraments, and Bellar-mine confesses that Christ taught nothing directly as to some, and Cardinal Bessarion admits there were originally only two, baptism and the Lord’s supper. And we can give the date or gradual growth of the doctrines in which we differ from them.

On the other side, the practical force of Tertullian’s argument is wholly gone. There he reasons to prove that no churches had these new doctrines of the heretics, so that they were proved to be new. “Go through the apostolic churches,” he says, “where as yet the sees of the apostles preside in their places, where their own authentic letters are read, sounding out the voice, and representing the face of each one. Is Achaia nearest to you? “You have Corinth. I go to Corinth now; it condemns Rome. “If you are not far from Macedonia, thou hast Philippi, thou hast Thessalonica.” I cannot go to Philippi, all the place has disappeared. I go to Thessalonica; they condemn Rome again. “If not, thou canst go into Asia; thou hast Ephesus. But if thou art adjacent to Italy, Rome, whose authority is to be had for us.” (He lived in Africa, over against Italy.) He declares they would find none of the new doctrines. Now remark here, first, that his appeal to this sure tradition was finding the scriptures, the authentic letters, still extant, which proved what the doctrine of the apostles was; and, secondly, if I go to these churches now, those which remain (except Rome itself) condemn Rome, and the rest can furnish no evidence at all, they are gone. What does remain of apostolic churches outside herself universally condemns her.

James. I do not see, M., what I, or any one, can gain by what is here said of tradition, nor what your doctors can gain from it but confusion. He appeals for the doctrine which is in scripture to Corinth and Ephesus and others, as witnesses that they never held such a doctrine as these heretics. But though that may have served as a testimony, as far as it went then, yet the facts prove how unsteady a foundation it was for the truth; for of these places, some of them do not exist at all, and if I were to go to the others, they do not agree with Rome. Of the means referred to I have nothing hardly left to prove scripture right; and what is left, if it be worth anything, proves Rome wrong. This is not much help to your cause. The churches mentioned in scripture I find are against you, where they still exist. Not that I believe any of them as authority, but they upset your argument from tradition entirely. You must find something better than this to build on. If I followed the direction Dr. Milner, I see, quotes—which I should be sorry to do, because God has left us the scriptures, but if I did—I must reject him, and Rome with him; because, in following the ordinances of tradition in the apostolic churches, I find that they are separated from Rome and condemn it.

N*. You are perfectly right, James; and there is a plain proof in Dr. Milner himself that he knew this well and saw it plainly enough, because in quoting Tertullian he has left all this part of the passage out. Tertullian says, “Go through the apostolic churches. Is Achaia next to thee? thou hast Corinth. If thou art not far from Macedonia, thou hast Philippi, thou hast the Thessalonians; if not, thou canst go into Asia, thou hast Ephesus; but if thou art near Italy, Rome,” etc. Now all the former part Dr. Milner carefully leaves out, and begins with “if you live near Italy.” He saw plainly enough that all his fine security by tradition would fall to the ground, overthrown by the passage, if he had honestly quoted it; because, as I have said, either the witnesses which afforded the security, the apostolic churches, had gone, having ceased to exist, or they were opposed to Rome. I regret to say half one’s work with the advocates of Romanism is to detect deceit of this kind.

James. Well, but, M., what do you say to this? This is not honest. Had he quoted all the passage, it would have upset all he was pleading for.

M. Well, I never read Tertullian of course. I should take it as Dr. Milner gave it. I supposed it was fair, and never meant to deceive you.

James. I am sure you did not. But you must see we cannot take all as Dr. Milner gives it. It is something to see that we cannot trust his reasonings. That is not the spirit of Christ any way, and that helps one to see clear.

N*. We have gained three points. The heretics first contended for some doctrines delivered by tradition, and not contained in scripture. The Fathers resisted this. Next, when tradition was first spoken of by the early Fathers, they used it as a testimony of the churches confirming the doctrines taught from scripture, not as containing additional doctrines. Thirdly, as to the basis laid by Tertullian, on whom they so much rely, it fails altogether as a secure proof, and what it does testify of condemns Rome. I add, that they used it so far with a good intention that their object was to shew what Christ and His apostles had originally taught, and that they had taught everything openly to all, in order to reject novel doctrines introduced subsequently. Their insisting on having what was at the beginning, what Tertullian for example asserts, “That that which was from the beginning is true,” is perfectly just. This is what we insist on. And we condemn the Romanists because all their peculiar doctrines are novelties, the dates or gradual introduction of them being historically demonstrable.

Thus purgatory was hinted at in the fifth century, said to be useful for very small sins in the sixth, and then only gradually grew up. Transubstantiation was never decreed definitively till the thirteenth, and the contrary was taught by the most famous doctors previously. The saints were prayed for, as we have seen, not to, for centuries, so that they had to alter the Roman liturgy to suit the change. So the so-called sacrifice of the Mass can be traced from the sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving (whence the word Eucharist), the presenting offerings before the consecration (whence the word Offertory)—both of which were called the unbloody offering, or sacrifice—to the applying it to the elements after consecration; and, lastly, but not till very late, to its being the real sacrifice of Christ, efficacious for the sins of quick and dead, and the liturgy was changed accordingly. I am not now examining the truth or falsehood of these doctrines, but their novelty. Romanists are now in the position of the heretics of old, alleging tradition for new doctrines which are not found in scripture. We, on the contrary, rest solely on the word of God, the scriptures, as authority, for this is certainly what was at the beginning, and, on the other hand, we can appeal to history, and prove the introduction of the particular doctrines they insist on as novelties among Christians.

But Dr. Milner cites other Fathers, and it will be useful in many respects to refer to them. The fact is, they argued as it suited them at the moment. When heretics pressed scripture, they flew to tradition, not at first as containing distinct truth, but as a witness of the truth of what they alleged was scriptural— a use we have seen to be impossible now, because the churches they appealed to, the apostolic churches, have disappeared, or are hostile to Rome. But, besides, these citations will give us the worth of the Fathers’ reasonings, and how they contradict, not each other merely, but themselves. Dr. Milner passes by, he tells us, Clement of Alexandria; he was right in doing so for his cause. Clement resists the Gnostics, or men of knowledge, who infested the church, saying that ordinary Christians had elements, but that the secret full doctrine of Christianity was in their blasphemies. Tertullian met this by shewing that the apostles had taught all publicly (Tert., de Praescriptione 22, and following).

Clement took another course. He says that Christ spoke in parables in order not to be understood by ordinary Christians, but that there were christian Gnostics, who by temperance,13 a human thing, and desiring and laborious, and prudence, a divine thing, arrived at Gnosis, and thus had got higher truths and intelligence to understand what was concealed from vulgar eyes. This was to be received according to the ecclesiastical rule, and the ecclesiastical rule is the consent and harmony, both of the law and the prophets, with the covenant delivered14 during the Lord’s presence. (Clem. Alex., Potter 2, 802, 3; Strom. 6.) His principle is bad, but his appeal is to the scriptures. Nor is Clement, after all, very famous for orthodoxy. He was saturated with Alexandrian Platonism, and was thoroughly sound neither on the divinity nor on the humanity of the Lord. I do not make a heretic of him, but, to say the least, he uses very awkward language, so that the famous Romanist doctor, Petau, charges him plainly with not speaking in an orthodox way.

Dr. Milner passes over Cyprian too, quite naturally. He strenuously resisted all the pretensions of Rome to the day he was martyred. But not only so, Stephen of Rome, not being able to prove his point against him on a subject of practice and discipline, appealed to tradition on the usage of the church. “Let nothing,” says Stephen, “be innovated on what has been handed down “(tradition). “Whence,” replies Cyprian, “is that tradition? Does it descend from the authority of the Lord and the Gospels, and come from the commandments and Epistles of the apostles? For God bears witness that those things are to be done which are written, and speaks to Joshua the son of Nun, saying, ‘The book of this law shall not depart out of thy mouth, but thou shalt meditate in it day and night, that thou mayest observe to do all things that are written therein.’… What obstinacy is that [in the pope]! what presumption, to prefer human tradition to a divine disposition, and not to take notice that God is indignant and angry as often as human tradition sets aside and passes by divine precepts, as He cries out and say by Esaias the prophet, ‘This people honour me with their lips, but their heart is far from me.’” (Ep. 74, 80, Oxford.) He tells us that if a canal does not give us the water as purely and freely as it used, we go up to the source; we see if the water has failed, or the canal is leaky, or stopped—so we must return to the original of the law and the gospel, and the apostolic teaching, and let the principle of our acting spring from that whence its order and origin spring.

James. No wonder he passes by Cyprian. He pleads here just for what we do in insisting on the scriptures against the pope.

N*. We may turn to Origen. Dr. Milner does not say where the passage he quotes is, but Origen speaks distinctly in the beginning of his Principia of tradition as all these early Fathers do. That is, when the heretics brought in tradition besides scripture, they condemn it; and when they pervert scripture, they say it is to be understood according to the common faith of the church, and novelties, whose beginning could be shewn, were not to be received. However, Origen himself was driven away by his bishop for every wild novelty imaginable. He allows no knowledge out of scripture. Speaking of the peace-offerings, he says, “These two days are the two testaments, in which we may search out and discuss everything relating to God, and from thence receive all knowledge of things. But if anything remains which is not decided by divine scripture, no other third writing ought to be received as an authority for any knowledge (because this is called the third day), but what remains let us give to the fire, that is, leave to God, for in the present life it has not pleased God that we should know all things.” (Horn. 5, on Levit. (213) 2.) Thus, while he referred to the common consent of the churches against the novelties of heretics (those who taught there were two Gods), he allows no authoritative source of knowledge but the two testaments.

This is just what we have seen with Tertullian, from whom I add a sentence here: “But that all things were made from subsisting materials I have not yet read. Let Hermogene’s workshop shew that it is written. If it is not written, let him fear the woe destined to those who add or take away.” (Tert. adv. Hær. 22.) Bellarmine does not venture to quote Origen.

Dr. Milner quotes Basil. The passage he quotes has no reference to any doctrine, if, indeed, it be genuine, which others than Protestants have doubted. Some objected to saying in a doxology, “the Father and the Son with the Holy Ghost,” and said scripture always said “in the Spirit, not with.” He says, “Surely this one expression, used with no premeditation or purpose, may be allowed, so long in use as it has been,” and then refers to practices in the church which rested solely on tradition, the sense of which most did not understand, just the same as Tertullian refers to praying towards the east (how few, he says, know it refers to paradise), signing with the cross, praying standing on Sunday, and from Easter to Pentecost, anointing with oil, immersing three times in baptism, and so on.

Now, that superstitions were creeping in, and more than that, when Basil wrote, nearly four hundred years after Christ, when, indeed, corruption and false doctrine had made havoc of the church, is quite true. Men used to live in sin, and wait till they were dying to be baptized, in order to get off quite clear. I do not mean that all did, but adduce the fact to shew the corruption that had come in. It was nearly at the same epoch that the whole of Christendom, save confessing martyrs, had denied the divinity of the Lord. We have seen that Basil was not speaking of doctrine when he referred to traditions, but to mere rites or liturgical forms, “one expression.” But when he speaks of doctrine, here are his words, “Believe the things that are written; the things that are not written do not seek.” (Horn. 29.) (Adversus Calum., Bened. ed. 2, 611 E.) “It is a manifest falling away from faith, and convicts of arrogance, to annul anything of the things that are written, or to introduce anything of the things that are not written.” (2, 224 D.) Poor Basil himself too became suspected of heresy. He never would say the Holy Ghost was God. The excuse was that, if he had, he would have been driven from his see, and the heretics would have had all his flock in their power; so he avoided the word, and said what was equivalent. So he defends himself, and says, “If a Jew owned Jesus to be the Anointed, but would not say Christ, ought he not to be received, as it is the same thing? “Such is the security Fathers afford; but we will return to this state of things.

“Every word or matter ought to be accredited by the testimony of inspired scripture. (Basil, Moralia Reg. 26, p. 254.) Nor ought anyone to dare to annul or add anything. For if everything which is not of faith is sin, as the apostle says, and faith by hearing, and hearing by the word of God, everything outside inspired scripture, not being of faith, is sin,” (79,22,317).

Let me add at once that what Dr. Milner quotes from Augustine and Vincent of Lerins confirms all I have said. Neither speak of doctrines learnt from tradition, but both take the universal faith of the church to guide in the interpretation of scripture. Epiphanius applies also the authority of tradition only to practice, namely, that unmarried persons who dedicated themselves to God sinned if they married afterwards, quoting what Paul says of the younger widows as analogous; but says, if there is no scripture, it ought to be accepted as founded on tradition. He is reasoning against those who forbade to marry, and says the church approved marriage, but admired people not marrying, and then he refers to tradition as helpful in understanding scripture.

Chrysostom alone speaks to the point of all Dr. Milner has quoted. He has given the whole sentence. It is all he has on 2 Thessalonians 2:15. But it is a very unfortunate case, because the Fathers, as we have seen, had a traditional interpretation of this chapter, namely, that what let (or hindered) was the Roman empire; and they, though persecuted, prayed it might subsist, because when removed Antichrist would come. It was removed, and Antichrist did not come, unless the pope be Antichrist; and if you ask Romanists what tradition was given which is not in the passages, or what is the tradition by word of which the apostle speaks, they cannot tell you a word about it. That is, the passage shews that tradition is wholly incompetent to preserve an unwritten apostolic teaching. Here is one alluded to: who can tell me what it is? I see the wisdom of God in it, I think clearly, in the scripture not saying what it was; because what was then the hindrance is not the present one; but at any rate your tradition is dumb and can tell us nothing. When rehgion became a religion of ordinances, not of truth, the traditions which were in vogue for them became the groundwork of all the Christian system and the Bible disappeared. But little as I trust the Fathers for any doctrine, they speak plainly enough as to scripture, and Chrysostom urges with all persevering eloquence and zeal everybody’s reading them, saying they were written by poor uneducated men on purpose that they might be plain for such; and that laymen occupied in the world had more need to read them than monks or clergy.

I add a few passages as to the exclusive authority of scripture-Athanasius against the heathen says,” For the holy and inspired scriptures are sufficient for the promulgation of all truth.” (Oratio contra Gentes, Ben. 1.) So Ambrose, “How can we adopt these things which we do not find in the holy scriptures? “So Gregory of Nyssa, quoted by Euthymius, “As that is not supported by scripture, we reject it as false.” So Jerome, “As those things which are written we do not deny, so those which are not written we refuse.” (Contra Helvid. 19, 2, 226, Veron. ed.) So Augustine, “In those things which are specially laid down in scripture, all those things are found which contain faith and the morals of life.” (De Doctr. Chris. 2, 9.) And again, “I owe my consent without any refusal to the canonical scriptures alone.” (De Nat. et Grat.) And similar quotations might be multiplied. So even as to councils, “Neither ought I to object the Council of Nice to you, nor you that of Ariminum (an Arian council of some eight hundred bishops) to me; by the authority of scripture let us weigh matter with matter, cause with cause, reason with reason.” (Contra Maxim. 3, 14.) So in contrast with the doctors of the church (that is, the Fathers), “For we should not consent to CathoUc bishops if they by chance are deceived, and have opinions contrary to the canonical scriptures of God.” (De Unit. Eccl. 11, Ben. 9, 355.) And so in his Epistles and other writings he says, over and over again, he has liberty to differ from them, and is bound only by the scriptures. Now either I am to receive these passages as right, and then, if the Fathers are consistent, consider this to be their doctrine; or if you can quote passages from them contradictory of these, then you make their authority to be simply and totally void.

If you ask me what I think, I think they used, like other men, the best grounds they thought they could find, and, when the heretics or the pope pleaded tradition, said that all must be proved by scripture. When they were, as Tertullian, perplexed by their subtle quotations of scripture, instead of doing as the Lord did when Satan quoted it, quoting another passage, which forbade what Satan used it for, they turned to tradition, but not to learn doctrines not in scripture, but to prove that of the heretics to be new. As a mere argument as to fact, it might prove it so far; but if a doctrine be in scripture, clearly it is not new but from the beginning, and it is able to make the man of God perfect. What Dr. Milner has said of tradition is at any rate entirely unfounded. What is of more importance than all, the blessed Lord has condemned it as the false foundation of His enemies, and that God was worshipped in vain by men who followed it.

M. And what do you make of the sabbath, and the change from the seventh day to the first? Is not this a proof that you must follow tradition?

N*. Certainly not. If the blessed privilege of the Lord’s day depended on tradition, I for one would hold it as of no force whatever. I might bear with one who observed it, because Paul tells us to do that—“one man regardeth one day above another, another man every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind.” But it does not rest on tradition. The change from the seventh day to the first is connected with the essence of Christianity and the Person of the Lord Jesus. The sabbath was the sign and seal of the Old covenant, the witness that God’s people had a part in the rest of God, which in itself is the very essence of our everlasting blessing. But it was then given, as all was, in connection with an earthly system, and was a sign of the rest of the old creation, as it indeed was originally so instituted in paradise. But the rejection of the Lord when He came into that is the proof that man cannot have rest in the old creation, that he is a sinner and needs redemption out of that state. The blessed Lord, become a man, was for that not less the Lord, and came to accomplish this redemption, and as Son of man was above all these things—was Lord of the sabbath as of everything else. It had been given for man in grace and goodness, though it took the form of law, as all did among the Jews.

But we as redeemed have to do with the new creation. All that system has found its end in the death of Christ; not the rest of God, but the hope of rest in the old creation. So Christ lay in the grave that sabbath, but now He is risen, risen the first day of the week, and the firstfruits of them that slept. We begin our Christian life as the firstfruits of God’s creatures. We begin as dead and risen in Christ. We do not therefore celebrate the rest of the old creation—we were utterly lost as belonging to that; but the resurrection of our blessed Lord, as the foundation and beginning of the new, when redemption is accomplished. Hence, after His resurrection He meets His disciples that first day of the week when they were assembled, and the first, or Lord’s day following the same thing, and thenceforth it is carefully distinguished in scripture. We learn the disciples came together the first day of the week to break bread. They were to set apart, in grace, for the poor on the first day of the week. And in the Revelation it is called “the Lord’s day,” just as the supper is called “the Lord’s Supper.” Hence we own with joy the Lord’s day, as scripture teaches us, the first day of the week, not the seventh, in which the Lord’s body lay in the grave, the witness that the old creation was judged, condemned, and passed away—that there was no rest in it but to die: no rest for the old man, but the restlessness of sin and the misery of its fruits; no rest in it for the new man, nor for Christ, because all was polluted and alienated from God. And He teaches us that He came to work in grace and die in it, and begin all anew, of which His resurrection, and the Lord’s day as a sign of it, is witness.

M. I do not understand a word you are saying. I see scripture says Christ was Lord of the sabbath, and that the first day was set apart, and that it speaks of the Lord’s day. But what you are saying about it is too high for me.

N*. Well, M., take the fact at any rate that you admit that Christ was Lord of the sabbath, that His authority was above it, and that after His resurrection the first day is the day distinguished in scripture, not the seventh. This proves our point now, that we do not receive it from tradition but from scripture.

James. Well, M., I am no wiser than you, yet I do understand it. But I see plainly it is not from any wisdom in me, but that I know that in the flesh and under the law I am lost, and that Christ has died and is risen again, and if any man be in Him, he is a new creature; old things are passed away, all things are become new. And Christ’s resurrection is the beginning of this hope, and that is where our rest is founded, and not in the old creation; so we have that and the first day of the week as the witness of blessing and that God’s rest belongs to us, not a sign of the rest of the first creation, when God rested on the seventh day, when He had made all things good, for sin had spoiled that, and the apostle says (Heb. 4) that man never entered into that. And I am sure we know he did not. Toil, and sin, and death are not rest. At any rate, as you say, we have it taught in scripture that the first day of the week, not the seventh, is the one marked out “the Lord’s day,” and that suffices. The Jews had the seventh day.

N*. Well, I turn to washing the feet, which is the other point Dr. Milner speaks of. It is a foolish point, because the Lord expressly declares that His meaning in it they did not then understand; that is, it had a spiritual signification which they would afterwards understand; in a word, that He did not mean the literal act, but that it was merely the sign of what required spiritual understanding. It is absurd to suppose that such a mere outward act gives a part with Christ. And what the sign of water means is told us, “Ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you.” And again to “sanctify and cleanse it [the church] by the washing of water by the word.”

The next proof of tradition Dr. Milner gives is a singularly unhappy one for Romanist doctrines. “The whole sacred history,” he says, “was preserved by the patriarchs in succession, from Adam down to Moses, during the space of two thousand four hundred years by means of tradition.” Now the flood came in this period, because men had grown so wicked and cast off God that Noah alone remained to be preserved. And after the flood all the world fell away into idolatry, so that God called Abraham out of it to begin afresh and have a nation for Himself in which He should keep the knowledge of the true God alive by a written law, because men so entirely lost the knowledge of Him when they had not one. Here is Paul’s account of this time, “Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful, but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened; professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds and four-footed beasts, and creeping things. Wherefore God gave them up to uncleanness… And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them up to a reprobate mind,” etc. This is a poor but true history of the time when man was left to tradition. The difference of Romanism now is this— there is a written word, and they have taken it away and put reproach upon it; and as the heathen corrupted the doctrine of one God by idolatry and many false gods, so the Romanists, when God had sent His Son to bring men back, have corrupted the doctrine of one Divine Mediator by making many human and false ones.

James. I do not see, M., how Dr. Milner could refer to that time. It upsets all he seeks to prove. Why, it shews that, when man had only tradition, he was lost in sin and idolatry altogether, so that only one was saved from the flood with his family, and Abraham had to be called out miraculously because all had gone into idolatry. And it is true you have gone away from the one Mediator to have many false ones that we do not want and that are of no use.

N*. Well, we will go on with Dr. Milner. He quotes Pope Stephen as referring to tradition. But this is just the tradition on which St. Cyprian opposed him; and all the African churches and Firmilian and those of Asia Minor opposed him, saying his tradition was false. It is just an additional proof of the uncertainty of tradition, and it is the very case which makes Augustine say that, if the doctors of the church go wrong, he is not bound by them. Dr. Milner’s statement as to the agreement of the Greek, Nestorian, Eutychian, and other bodies in the East along with Romanists (save on the pope’s supremacy—a pretty important point when infallibility is in question) is simply untrue. They are corrupt enough, God knows; but they reject a quantity of Romanist doctrine and discipline too: as, to name no others, purgatory is wholly rejected in the Greek church, and the procession of the Holy Ghost from the Son. And as to Eutychians, they held that Christ had not really two distinct natures, but that the Godhead was as the soul of Christ; the Nestorians, on the other hand, divided the Person, though at first it was merely a very just refusal to call Mary the mother of God.15 Nestorius wished to say the mother of Him who is God. However, intrigues had the upper hand.

As to Dr. Milner’s saying that it was easier to change the scriptures, so that they would be uncertain as a rule, nobody read them, a few monks copied them in the monasteries, but save that, nobody, could read, and the clergy taught what they liked. There was no object in changing scripture; besides, I doubt not God watched over it.

As to saying that religious novelties would have produced violent opposition, and of course tumults, it is too bad and dishonest. Why, half the time of the emperors was spent in keeping the peace or trying to do so, for they never succeeded. The majority of bishops in Africa seceded, and some of their partisans got the name of circumcelliones, or vagabonds, for going about using violence. And at last they were put down by the emperor by force. One council, gathered to settle these doctrinal disputes, killed an old archbishop because he did not agree with them. First, the orthodox got the Arians banished, and then the Arians got the orthodox. On the subject of images, council voted against council, and then it came in the East to wars, in which a strong party held their ground a hundred years against the emperors. Why, the whole history of the church is the history of violence and banishment, and bloodshed, and tumult, on account of doctrinal and church disputes. The streets of Alexandria and Rome have streamed with blood through them, and the civil authority had to put it down. As to transubstantiation and invocation of saints, we shall come to them in their place. History will shew whether Dr. Milner has been rash in trusting to the presumed ignorance of his readers in referring to them.

I have now gone through the question of tradition and what Dr. Milner has to say on it. I do not think we have found either certainty or the church by it yet. I still ask, Since you appeal to the church and authority, where is it? The scripture does act on my conscience and heart, and I bow to it as the word of God, as that word which pierces to the dividing asunder the joints and marrow and soul and spirit; it is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart, and I bow as finding myself, when I read it, before Him in whose sight all things are naked and open. Not so when you speak to me of the church and what you hold up to me as such. As an outward authority in unity, where is it to be found? Dr. Milner suppresses that part of the passage in Tertullian, it is true, but what he referred to as his great authority sent me to the East. These were confessedly the most ancient churches, but they are opposed to Rome. If I am in England and northern Europe or North America, the immense majority of professing Christians owning the Lord, and even active in propagating Christianity, denounce Rome as the corruptest body in existence. Where is this one church which has authority? You tell me Rome is one. One with what? In itself. So are the Greeks. Yet Rome is not more one, as we have seen, than Protestants; not on election; not on the authority of the pope; and not, till a year or two ago, on the immaculate conception; but especially not able to tell me where infallibility really resides.16

James. My trust is in scripture as the word of God. I know it is in my soul, and you own it is the word of God, and it tells me to trust it, and that I ought to have the witness in myself, and I have: but I must say, Bill, though I know nothing of it of course myself, what Dr. Milner has insisted on all comes to nothing, and worse than nothing when it is examined. Nor have you any doctrine which you can refer to tradition when scripture says nothing. What I know of your doctrines, as purgatory, and the popes being successors of Peter, and worshipping the saints, is only a corruption of what is in scripture, or quite condemned by it. And then what you appeal to goes against you. Why did Dr. Milner leave out these other churches from the passage he quoted? They just knock up his argument.

M. Well, it is no good my arguing, or any of us. I had better bring Father O., and he will make it plain for you.

N*. By all means. We are just coming to a point of which Milner says nothing, and naturally would not—the difficulties of his own case. And you could not tell whether I was stating it correctly or not, and I suppose Mr. O. can: at any rate I will give the proofs. Hitherto we have only examined what Dr. Milner says, so that we wanted no one. We will meet then, again, to see if we can find the church, where it is, and where the infallibility is, which is to guide us. I will now say Good-day. Good evening to you both. May the Lord guide us into all truth.

James. Good evening, sir.

1 Any authorised Romish catechism on the baptismal service may be consulted, or Cat. Cone. Trid. 42; and Conc. Trid. 5, 4, for the last words of the sentence. The Roman doctrine on baptism speaks very little of giving life in it; much more of taking away sin, original and actual, and insists on taking it away, not removing imputation only, adding that concupiscence which does remain is not properly sin, as Cat. Cone. Trid. on Baptism 43. It teaches it, however, distinctly, not only in the term made children of God, in every catechism and the baptism service, but very definitely also Cat. Cone. Trid. (Lord’s Prayer) sect. 10. It is altogether remarkable how very little is said of life in authorised Romish teaching. Eternal life is wholly in the future, Cat. Cone. Trid. (on the Creed), art. 12. They are replenished with divine grace, a divine quality. See on Baptism 50, and Cat. Cone. Trid. 6, 7, where hope and charity must be added to have eternal life. However, they are said to be born again, made children of God, and incorporated in Christ by baptism.

2 Cone. Trid. Sess. 7, 9; Cat. Cone. Trid. 54.

3 There is a strange and startling anomaly on the point of mortal sin, surely a very grave one, of which Irish catechisms furnish an example. Each gives a catalogue of deadly or mortal sins, but they are different. One is by the Right Rev. Dr. Plunket, thirteenth edition, Dublin, 1827. How many are the chief kinds of mortal sin? Seven, called capital sins. Which are the seven capital sins? Pride, covetousness, luxury, anger, gluttony, envy and sloth. The other is by the Most Rev. Dr. Reilly, Dublin, 1827. Both are printed by the same printer, Wogan. How many capital or deadly sins? Seven: pride, covetousness, lust, gluttony, envy, anger, sloth. So in two dioceses in Ireland, the sins which would take a man to hell and kill his soul were different.

4 I give a translation submitted to the authorities at Rome, and printed at the Propaganda. Those in mortal sin have a true but not a living faith. VI, canon 28 on Justification.

5 Dr. Milner’s book is craftily written. He introduces the whole inquiry by essays, etc., of members of the supposed society, by which the truths of natural and revealed religion are proved true as a starting point. But if I am to discover a true religion, this cannot be, for the true one is discovered, and fundamentally the true faith in the revealed religion already demonstrated. Else I have not the true religion. But that is found, it seems, without the church at all, and what is the professed inquiry in the book is settled. But this avoids admitting openly the authority of scripture in itself. But then, having the true religion of true faith, I have not to discover it, but whether Romanism is consistent with it. Every true Christian believes in the authority of the word of God: with this I do not discover a religion at all, but, having it, judge the pretensions of the Romanist to the possession and the exclusive possession of it. The whole statement of the case is a subtle fallacy, for which the way has been paved by what precedes. We are not discovering a religion, but judging Romanism, and Protestantism too, if you please, when I am a Christian. In a word, if I have natural and revealed religion demonstrated, I have discovered the true religion, for the demonstrated revealed religion is the true one. Our inquiry is not then the discovery of Christ’s religion; it is discovered and demonstrated. We are inquiring if Romanism, the state of the church, is according to what has been demonstrated.

6 Baronius says he must give the names of popes as dates, but how can he own as popes the sons of the mistresses of the Marquis of Tuscany, whom they put in to be popes by their guilty influence? (Bar. An. 912, 7, 8.) There were the two parties, the Roman nobles and the Marquis of Tuscany, who in turn put in the popes, or drove them out, so that there were often two at a time, and each habitually when he got the upper hand quashed all the ordinations of his adversary as invalid. (Bar. An. 907, 3.) Auxilius wrote a book on the ordinations, exordinations, and super-ordinations of the Roman pontiffs. (See Baronius’ Account of Sergius, 908, 2.) At last the Emperor came in to introduce some decent order. But this lasted a great while. We may examine this a little more exactly when we come to succession as a proof of the true church. Here I only give the undoubted facts, which may be seen in Baronius as in other historians.

7 Perhaps more; chiefly in Bavaria, Baden, Rhenish Prussia, and Silesia.

8 Dr. Milner’s Letters, 6 and 8.

9 The decree of 1715 allowed the Chinese to continue the worship of their ancestors, with gifts and burnings before them, and prostrating themselves, the principal worship of the heathen Chinese. Since China has been opened recently to Europeans, they have found a great dragon on the altar of a Jesuit church of that day, so that the Chinese could worship that and the host at the same time.

10 Since this was written, as every one knows, the Council at Rome has declared the pope infallible. But what has taken place only proves the truth of what is here said.

11 Vincentius Lirinensis’ rule is a real farce on the face of it. I must know all the church ever held to say, “held always, and by all” before the rule can apply. And when I do know it, as in this instance, I have a doctrine declared to be a dogma of faith which the most important body among the Roman Catholics denied publicly for centuries.

12 Tert. de Præscriptione Haereticorum 20, and following: ed. Rig. 208. I do not think Tertullian’s confidence in scripture and grace, to use it by the Spirit, was sound. Hence, when tested, he had no strength against the fanatic pretensions of Montanus. In a preceding part of this treatise he, leaning on human argumentation, says, “If you quote a text, the heretics will quote another, so you are losing your breath”; but his arguments refer to them as a means of convicting heretics, not as the source of truth, and he refers Irenaeus to what was held by all, and not as a proof of an unwritten truth, but as a proof that what the heretics taught of two Gods, a bad and a good one, and the like, did not come from the apostles; it was new, or already condemned by the apostles. The apostles knew all that was revealed, and taught it all. The heretics pretended to some secret or concealed doctrine, but no church had these doctrines. It is a proof of what was taught. The Romanist is clearly on the ground the heretics were on.

13 oion e sophrosune de ateles phronesis ephiemene men phroneseos, ergatike de epiponos.

14 paradidomene, the word used for tradition.

15 The heathen, who had rejected the preaching of Christ, gave up their temples in crowds when they had a woman to worship.

16 The Council of Rome, as all are aware, has settled this for those who own it; but proved it was not so settled for eighteen hundred years, as it was opposed by many prelates, and is publicly by many intelligent Roman Catholics still.