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But we come at length to the last two articles of the chapter on the Scriptures. We give them together, for they both mean the same thing, and together form a suitable keystone to the arch of Presbyterianism. They are as follows :

“Art. IX. The infallible rule of interpretation of Scripture is the Scripture itself; and therefore, when there is a question about the true and full sense of any Scripture (which is not manifold, but one), it may be searched and known from other places that speak more clearly. X. The Supreme Judge, by whom all controversies of religion are to be determined, and all decrees of councils, opinions of ancient writers, doctrines of men, and private spirits are to be examined, and in whose sentence we are to rest, can be no other than the Holy Spirit speaking in the Scriptures.

“Acts xv. 15. And to this agree the words of the prophets, as it is written. John v. 46. For had ye believed Moses ye would have believed me, for he wrote of me. Matt. xxii. 29, 31. Ye do error, not knowing the Scriptures nor the power of God. Eph. iv. 20. Acts xxviii. 25."

Singular articles these! Reduced to plain English, they are siinply, Scripture interprets itself, and God is the supreme judge of religious controversies. The proofs in the notes are in keeping with the assertions in the text. They have, however, the merit, if not of proving the assertions, at least that of disproving them. They show us our blessed Lord reasoning from the Scriptures against the Jews, and in his own person giving them an example and establishing the necessity of a living tribunal, a speaking judge, for the interpretation of Scripture and the determining of controversies of religion. So far as the example of our Lord and the occasion he found for correcting the Jews in their understanding of the Scriptures can count for any thing, they establish the contrary of what they were brought to prove. It is remarkable how difficult it is for Presbyterians to quote any Scriptural authority in their defence which does not make against them. There is a providence in this, cheering to the faithful, but which should make Presbyterians fear and tremble.

But, in these articles, we have the secret arrived at by our Presbyterian divines as the result of their long and laborious researches. It is now laid open before us. Come, ye men of the Old School, of the New School, Cumberland and all other species of Presbyterians, ye Congregationalists, Baptists, Methodists, Unitarians, Universalists, and hearken to this lesson of profoundest wisdom! Why in vain dispute and quarrel, why worry and devour each other, about the



various matters which separate you one from another? Let the Bible decide. Call forth with a “world's convention" of all the sects ; let them assemble ; let the Bible be placed reverently on a stand ; let all keep silence; the book will open its mouth, utter a sentence, and all your controversies will be settled, and ye will all bow down in meek and humble submission. How simple and easy! What a pity men should not have discovered this admirable method of settling controversies, before the Westminster divines! Alas! the controversy between sectarians is precisely as to what the decision of the Bible is !

Presbyterians, however, have been driven to adopt this rule by the necessity they were under of steering between two formidable sand-bars. If they acknowledged in the church an always living and divinely instituted tribunal for the determination of controversies, it was all over with them.; for that tribunal existed at the birth of Presbyterianism, and had condemned it; and on the other hand, they were ashamed to avow, in just so many words, that every one interprets the Bible as he thinks proper. If the first, they condemned themselves, and must, to be consistent, return to the church; if the second, then they must adopt an absurdity too gross even for them to swallow. What, then, could they do? Mystify themselves and others with high-sounding words, meaning nothing. They must say, Scripture interprets itself, and the Holy Ghost is the supreme judge of controversies. But as the Holy Ghost decides, according to them, only as speaking in the Scriptures, and as the Bible has never been heard to utter a single syllable, they gain nothing, but are ultimately reduced to the rule, Each one understands the Scriptures as he chooses,—the great fundamental principle of Protestantism, and nearly the only one in which all Protestants are able to agree. So, after all, in trying to avoid one sand-bar, they stick fast on the other, or as one of our former legislators would express it, “ In keeping clear of Skiller, they run foul of Charybogus."

We do not intend, on this occasion, to give the various and satisfactory proofs of the necessity or of the fact of a living tribunal in the Christian Church for determining religious controversies. But we may say, the tribunal alleged by Presbyterians is obviously no tribunal at all; and the fact, that they are ashamed to avow it, and seek in every possible way to disguise it, is a sufficient refutation of the principle of private interpretation, or, if not, it has already been several

VOL. VI–16.


you sin

times and amply refuted in the pages of this journal, as well as elsewhere. It will suffice for our present purpose to adduce a couple of edifying commentaries on the Presbyterian rule, supplied by the very volume before us.

In the Form of Government, p. 364, we read, -—“ To the General Assembly belongs the power of deciding in all controversies respecting doctrine and discipline, of reproving, warning, or bearing testimony against error in ,doctrine, or immorality in practice, in any church, presbytery, or synod,

of suppressing schismatical contentions and disputations;" and on page 378, that the Presbyterian minister who preaches at the ordination of a candidate is to propose to him the following questions:--" Do you believe the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments to be the word of God, the only infallible rule of faith and practice? Do cerely receive and adopt the Confession of Faith of this Church as containing the system of doctrine taught in the Scriptures? . . Do you promise subjection to your brethren in the Lord ?” To all these questions the candidate answers in the affirmative.

Well done, O ye learned divines! These lessons of submission given to the candidate are admirable ; these enactments to enforce obedience to the decisions of the General Assembly are truly edifying ! But, dear friends, how could you so soon and 'so completely forget and abandon your cherished and favorite doctrine? How could you write one thing in the beginning of your book, and give it such a flat denial in the end? How could you establish one principle in the Confession, and a contrary principle in the Form of Government ? Indeed, most amiable doctors, you hardly treat us fairly. Which are we to believe, the Confession or the Form of Government? In one place you tell us the Scripture and the Scripture alone can interpret itself; and now in another, instead of the Scriptures, you give us the decisions of the General Assembly. You told us that the supreme judge in controversies can be none other than the Holy Spirit ; and now, when controversies arise among yon, instead of having recourse to "the Holy Spirit speaking in the Scriptures,” you modestly invest the General Assembly with “ the power of deciding all controversies.” In the Confession you solemnly assert that“ the decrees of councils, the opinions of ancient writers, the doctrines of men, and private spirits,” are to be brought only before the bar of the supreme judge, “the Holy Spirit speaking in the Scriptures”; and

now you summon us before the bar of the General Assernbly, that is to say, before a couple of hundred of Presbyterian ministers, and a like number of Presbyterian elders. You were telling us, a moment ago, that the Holy Spirit speaks only through the Scriptures, and now you tell us, that he


, speaks through the Presbyterian elders of the United States! Really, gentlemen, this obliviousness on your part is too bad, altogether too bad. Alas for the poor candidate! How deplorable is his fate! After having received the assurance of having no other interpreter of Scripture than Scripture itself, and no other judge but the Holy Spirit speaking in the Scriptures, he now finds that all was a delusion, and that he must tamely promise subjection to his brethren, and follow their decision, or be ignominiously dismissed and branded for life.

Alas ! how many lies does that first lie render necessary! Thus it is that error must necessarily stamp all its proceedings with contradiction and lie. Mentita est iniquitas sibi. Protestants, and Presbyterians in particular, were at first most obstreporous against all authority ; for this was necessary in order to be able to wrest a portion of the faithful from their legitimate pastors. But having done this, and finding that no shadow of government or society was possible on the principles they at first set up, they turn round, and with admirable coolness deny and reject those very principles withont which they had never existed, and institute in their novel and self-constituted tribunals the most intolerable tyranny, in the place of the paternal authority they threw off, and which had received the traditions of all Christian nations, and the promise of the divine protection and guidance. But it was not to be supposed that such tribunals, such supreme judges, would command any respect, or much submission. Dissent breeds dissent. The first dissenters authorize by precept and example the new dissenters. What right had

you to dissent from the authority to which you were born subject, which we have not to dissent from you? Hence, the decisions of these tribunals and judges are followed only so long as force, or self-interest, money, or social position are present to back them ; when not supported by such or like considerations, they are mere cobwebs. Hence, Protestantism is everywhere cut up into divisions sects, parties, and factions, tov numerous to count, and which serve only to worry and devour each other, and to place in bold contrast the majestic and compact unity of the Catholic Church.



[From Brownson's Quarterly Review for 1847–8.)


My old master, Jeremiah Milwood, as I have told you, had

, but two children, both sons, and with only about two years difference in their ages. They were his pride, and he spared no pains or expense in their education. He was a stanch Presbyterian; and his highest ambition for his two sons was, that they should become earnest, devoted, and distinguished Presbyterian ministers. He seemed likely to be gratified. Both were of a serious turn, studious and piously inclined. Before the elder had completed his seventeenth year, both became subjects of grace, and both, on leaving college, entered the seminary.

During the second year of their residence in the seminary, their mother, a woman of great strength of character and sweetness of disposition, fell ill and died. From that moment, a striking change was observed in the tone and manner of John, the elder brother. He was his mother's favorite, and shared especially her confidence. At her request, he had spent several hours with her alone just previously to her death, and, though none of us knew what transpired to affect him, it was subsequently surmised, from one or two words which escaped him, that she had expressed, in that trying moment, to him, as the only member of her family she could hope to influence, or to whom she felt able to open her heart, some misgivings as to the truth of Presbyterianism, and had begged him, by his love of her and his regard for the welfare of his soul, to examine thoroughly its foundations before entering the ministry. However this might be, it is certain he was never again what he had been. He returned, after the obsequies, to the seminary, and even remained there several months but he lost his relish for the prescribed course of studies, and became unwilling to attend the services in the chapel. Finally, le wrote to his father, informing him that he did not wish to

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