網頁圖片
PDF
ePub 版

"I am rather slow to infer a Presbyterian minister's belief from his profession. But, if Protestantism be Presbyterianism, none but Presbyterians can be Protestants. Is this your belief?

“ Not exactly; for there are Protestants who are not Presbyterians."

“ These, of course, differ more or less from Presbyterians, or else they would be Presbyterians. Consequently Protestantism must differ more or less from Presbyterianism."

“ "In non-essentials, but not in essentials. All who embrace the essentials are Protestants.” “Do Catholics embrace the essentials ?”

According to the general opinion of Protestants, they do."

Then, according to the general opinion of Protestants, Catholics are Protestants ?”

“But I think differently, and our General Assembly will soon, I hope, solemnly declare that Rome does not retain even the essentials of the Christian faith.”

“ That will be a sad day for Rome, no doubt; but what, in your judgment, are the essentials ?”

They are the great evangelical doctrines of the reformation, embraced by all orthodox Protestants." “And orthodox Protestants are

-- ?" “All who agree in accepting the sufficiency of the Scriptures, and the great essential doctrines of revelation."

66 Which means that the essential doctrines are the essential doctrines, and orthodox Protestants are orthodox Protestants.

“The essential doctrines are substantially what is held by Presbyterians.”

“Those orthodox Protestants who are not Presbyteriansdiffer from Presbyterians only in relation to non-essentials ?”

“ That is all.”

“Presbyterianism, or, what is the same thing, the orthodox faith, then, is made up of two parts, one essential, the other non-essential ?"

“ All parts of the orthodox faith are not alike essential. But there may be differences which are not differences of faith. The Congregationalists, Evangelical Episcopalians, Dutch Reformed, the Calvinistic Baptists, &c., differ from us in matters of discipline and church government, while they embrace substantially the same faith we do.”

Is infant baptism a matter of faith?”

[ocr errors]

peace.

[ocr errors]

“Not strictly."

" Then you do not baptize infants because you believe Almighty God commands you to baptize them ?”

“We do; but the point is not so essential, that those who differ from us must needs err essentially.”

“One may, then, reject a positive command of God, without essential error ?"

“We think our Baptist brethren err grievously ; but, as they hold the great cardinal doctrines of the Gospel, we do not think their error is absolutely essential. In the present state of the religious world, it is the duty of God's people to make the platform of Christian union as broad as possible, to discountenance theological wranglings, to seek to heal sectarian divisions, and to follow after the things which make for “ But if you had no fears of popery, and felt that

your own sect had the power to make converts, I suppose you would regard the Baptists as of the number of those who bring in damnable heresies.'

“You are ungenerous ; I regret the unsoundness of my Baptist brethren, but I do not consider them as essentially wrong."

“ Not even when they deny you the Christian character, by denying that your baptism is baptism,—and when they refuse to commune with you, on the ground that you are unbaptized persons; that is, infidels, in the proper sense of the word ?"

"There they are wrong; but still not essentially so, because baptism itself is a non-essential.”

“Then you do not agree in opinion with our Lord, who says, “Unless a man be born again of water and of the Holy Ghost, he shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven?'

"Christian doctrines are distinguishable into fundamnentals and non-fundamentals. The fundamentals are the essentials, the non-fundamentals are the non-essentials. All who believe the former are substantially orthodox, though they may differ about the latter."

“ The non-fundamentals are either revealed truths, or they are not. If they are not, your distinction of fundamentals and non-fundamentals is simply a distinction between what is revealed and what is not revealed, between the word of God and the words of men or of devils; and, on this supposition, the essentials will be what God has revealed, and the non-essentials what he has not revealed. If they are:

6

word ?*

revealed truths, you imply that a portion of the revealed word is unessential, and may be disbelieved or rejected without essential error. Which do you say?"

“Suppose we say they are no portion of the revealed

“ You cannot say that, because you have declared them to be revealed truths, by asserting that Christian doctrines are distinguishable into fundamentals and non-fundamentals. But pass over this. If you say the non-fundamentals, that is, the non-essentials, are not revealed truths, you imply, by making the fundamentals essential to be believed, that the whole revealed word is essential to be believed, and therefore deny that there can be any differences of opinion as to any portion of what is revealed, without essential error, which renders your distinction between fundamentals and non-fundamentals of no avail; since no one, unless a Protestant, is likely to contend that any thing more than what is revealed is essential to be believed. Is it not

so?”

« So it appears.'

“Then again, you say, men, though differing about the non-essentials, that is, about what is not revealed, are substantially orthodox, if they believe the essentials, that is, what is revealed. Now they may differ about the non-essentials, by believing, some, that they are, and some, that they are not, revealed truths, or portions of the word of God, as we see in the case of you and the Baptists concerning infant baptism; you believing it to be revealed and commanded by God himself, they believing it not revealed and implicitly forbidderi. Now, if men may believe the non-essentials to be revealed, they may, according to you, without essential error, believe that to be the word of God which is the word of men or of devils. Do you admit this?

“Of course not. "Cursed is every one that addeth to the words of this book.' The condemnation of Rome is not so much that she denies the essential truths of the Christian religion, as that she overlays them by her corrupt additions, and renders them of none effect through the traditions of men. It is as much an error to add to the word as to take from it."

“Then you abandon this supposition, and take the other, - that the non-essentials are revealed truths, portions of the word of God ?"

[ocr errors]

66

“Be it so, for the present.

“ Then you must say, since you allow men to believe or reject them, without essential error, that a portion of the word of God, of the truth Almighty God has revealed, may be denied without essential error. Do you hold that one can be substantially orthodox, and yet deny a portion of God's word ?”

“Even your own doctors distinguish between fundamentals and non-fundamentals, and teach that faith in the fundamentals suffices for salvation."

“This, even if true, would not avail you ; for our doctors are no authority for you, and you cannot urge them against me in this discussion, since I am not defending the church. But it is not true. Our doctors distinguish between the articles of the creed which are logically fundamental or primary, and those which are secondary, 'I admit; but they do not teach that faith in the primary alone suffices for salvation. They teach that the whole must be believed, either explicitly or implicitly, and simply add, that explicit faith in the primary articles, with implicit faith in the secondary, is all that is necessary, necessitate medii."

“ That is all I ask. He who believes explicitly the primary believes implicitly the secondary; for the primary imply the secondary.

“So, on the other hand, he who explicitly disbelieves the secondary, implicitly disbelieves the primary; for the secondary presuppose or imply the primary. No man believes implicitly what he explicitly denies. But you hold the non-fundamentals may be explicitly denied without essen

tial error; therefore, you cannot assume that they are implicitly believed.”

“But do you pretend that every thing, however unimportant or insignificant, is essential to be believed ?"

“Your faith, not mine, is the matter in question."

“As a Catholic, you are bound to hold that the book of Tobias is the word of God. In that book I read that Toby had a dog, and that the dog came to his master, wagging his tail. Is it essential to your salvation, that you believe with a firm faith that Toby really had a dog, and that the dog actually did wag his tail ?”

* That is not precisely the question. Assuming the inspiration of the book, can you deny the fact without essential error ?

“Why not? Common sense teaches us that the fact is. not and cannot be in itself essential.”

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

ence?"

[ocr errors]

But you

“And do you hold that there can be essential error only where the matter denied is in itself essential ?”

“ How can there be ?”

“What, in religious or divine faith, is the immediate object believed ?

“ The truth of the particular proposition, whatever it may be."

“Not exactly; for the faith is religious only where the proposition believed is a revealed proposition.”

“The truth of the particular revealed proposition, then, whatever it may be.”

“In believing, does the mind perceive the truth of the proposition believed, or only the proposition itself ?”

“Explain yourself.” • What is faith, as distinguished from knowledge or sci

“ Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”

"Or, as says St. Augustine,-Fides est credere quod non vides,-Faith is to believe what you do not see. must see or mentally apprehend the proposition, or you cannot assent to it. What, then, is that in the proposition which you assent to, but which you do not see?"

“The truth of the proposition.”

“As in the proposition, 'God exists in unity of essence and trinity of persons, you distinctly and immediately apprehend the proposition, but not its truth; otherwise, it would be a proposition, not of faith, but of knowledge or science;-knowledge, if perceived intuitively; science, if perceived only by means of discursion. Hence, rationalists, when they refuse to believe the mysteries of faith because they cannot immediately perceive their truth, deny, virtually, the possibility of faith, and fall into the absurdity of contending that they cannot have faith, unless it be knowledge or science; that is, they cannot have faith unless faith be impossible! Where there is sight, there is not faith. Hence we say, faith will lose itself in sight, hope be swallowed in fruition, but charity abideth for ever. I immediately perceive the propositions of faith, or the credenda ; but not their intrinsic truth. Therefore, the truth of the revealed proposition cannot be that which is immediately believed or assented to."

6. So it would seem.” “If it is not immediately believed, it must be mediately

« 上一頁繼續 »