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and his not having been sufficiently on his guard against his sophistry and Jesuitical cunning. Could he not correct this? Could he not contrive to change the issue, and throw the burden of proof on the Catholic ? He pondered the matter for several weeks, and finally concluded, that, if he could not define and establish Protestantism, he might at least disprove Catholicity, and thus justify the reformers in separating themselves from the church.
As soon as James had come to this sage conclusion, an opportunity was found of renewing the discussion. This
it was John who opened it. “Well, brother, he said, have you succeeded in finding a definition of Protestantism to your mind ?"
“I wish to consider Protestantism, now, only as a protest against the errors and corruptions of popery. Here you affirm and I deny, and consequently the laboring oar is in
“ Not exactly, my prudent brother. You affirm Catholicity is corrupt. You are, then, the accuser, the plaintiff in action, and must set forth your charges and sustain them. The principle of law is, every man is to be presumed innocent till proved guilty. The church must, therefore, be presumed innocent till the contrary is made to appear.”
The church claims to be an ambassador from God, and to have the right to command me in his name. She must bring credentials from God, before I can be held to hear or obey her. I demand her credentials.”
“ All in good time. But not too many things at once. You shift the question before you get it fairly stated. You begin by charging the church with being corrupt, and, without offering any proofs of her corruption, you proceed immediately to demand her credentials as the ambassador of God. This will not do. Corruption implies integrity; and the plea that the church is corrupt concedes her credentials, and merely charges her with exceeding her authority, or with having abused it. This plea concedes her authority; but the demand for credentials denies it. You cannot, therefore, plead, at one and the same time, want of authority, and corruption or abuse of authority. You must elect one or the other, and confine yourself to the one you elect."
« Be it so.
“I am no lawyer, and do not understand special pleading.
“But you are an educated man, and are to be presumed to understand, at least, the ordinary rules of logic, and therefore that the same thing cannot be both conceded and denied in the same breath. You cannot say that the church is corrupt, has abused or misused her authority, and yet deny her authority. When you deny that she has ever received authority from God, you declare her, in quantum Ecclesia, a nullity from the beginning, and to allege the corruption of a nullity is absurd.
The Romish Church never received authority from God, or, in other words, was never divinely commissioned."
“ Possession is in law prima facie evidence of title. The church is in possession, and has been so from time immemorial. The presumption is, therefore, in her favor, and you must admit her title, or set forth good and valid reasons for contesting it."
Prescription does not apply in the case of the church.” “ It is admitted in law, and therefore, by the reason of mankind, as a general principle. If you deny its application in the case of the church, you allege an exception to the general rule, and must show a reason for it."
“Prescription does not give an absolute title, but simply a presumptive title against adverse claimants. It presupposes the existence of the estate to be conceded, the title of which is vested in some one, and presumes it to be in the possessor, unless the contrary is shown. But where the existence of the estate is the matter in question, it is idle to plead possession or prescription. What is not cannot be possessed. The estate, in the present case, is the divine commission. Supposing it conceded that such a commission has at some time been issued, possession may, I grant, be pleaded as prima facie evidence of title in the possessor. But I deny that such a commission as the Romish Church claims to have received has ever been issued. therefore, the fact of such commission, before you can plead possession or prescription.”
“Possession implies the object possessed. Evidence of the possession is, therefore, evidence of the existence of that which is possessed. Consequently, just in proportion as there is evidence that the church has possessed, or claimed and exercised, with the general consent, the commission in
You must prove,
question, and as her having claimed and exercised it with this consent is presumptive proof of title against adverse claimants, is there presumptive proof that the commission has been issued.”
“ Quod nimis probat, nihil probat. Your argument, if it prove any thing, proves too much. A pagan or a Mahometan may say as much."
“If either paganism or Mahometanism claims a similar commission, and can, as the church, be said to be in possession, the fact is, in like manner, presumptive evidence of title till the contrary appears, I both concede and contend. Nothing can generate nothing. The claim to a divine commission must have had some origin, and, on the principle of law, that every man must be presumed innocent till proved to be guilty, must be presumed to have had a good origin till the contrary is proved. False religions imply the existence of the true religion, as counterfeit coin implies the genuine. The claim to divine commission, if it be really made by either paganism or Mahometanism, is therefore prima facie evidence that at some time, to somebody, a divine commission has issued. If no such commission had ever been given, it is not conceivable that it could have been claimed. No one would ever have falsely claimed to be an ambassador from one court to another, if no genuine ambassador, or nothing in the same order, had ever been known or heard of; and the sending of ambassadors must have become a general custom, before any one, not duly commissioned, conld have conceived the project of palming himself off as one, or could have hoped for any success in the attempt to do it. The fact of possession, where it could be pleaded, would be a presumption of title in the Mahometan or the pagan, in like manner as it is in the case of the Catholic. Hence the church, where she has never been in possession, when presenting herself as an adverse claimant, always produces her credentials, and gives good and valid reasons why the present occupant should be ousted and she placed in possession. I admit, therefore, all that the argument implies, and deny that it proves too much.”
“But admit it, and every mad enthusiast who claims to be divinely commissioned must be presumed to be so till the contrary is shown."
“Not at all. His claim to a divine commission is, if you will, a presumption that at some time, to somebody, a divine commission has issued; but not that it has issued to him ; for he is not and never has been in possession. He must show a reason for his claim, before it can be admitted.”
“At least, the principle applies to Protestants as well as to pagans and Mahometans, and you can no more plead prescription against us than against them.”
"I have admitted the plea of prescription, in the case of paganism and Mahometanism, on the supposition that they are really in possession,-a fact, however, which I let pass, but do not concede. But Protestants cannot plead prescription, because they are not and never have been in possession, and because they do not even claim to be, since you, in their name, deny that the commission in question has ever issued."
“But conceding that there was a presumption in favor of the church at the epoch of the reformation, and that the reformers were not at liberty to separate from her without cause, this cannot be said now. The church is not now in possession. The reformers gave good and valid reasons for separating from her communion, and she has been condemned as a usurper by the judgment of mankind. The question is not now on ousting her from a possession which she has held from time immemorial, but on reversing the judgment rendered against her, and readmitting her to a possession from which she has been ejected by due process of law."
" When was the judgment you speak of rendered? and where is the record of the court ?”
“The fact is one of public notoriety, and all the world now laughs at the ridiculous pretensions of Rome.”
“Do you include in all the world the pagan and Mahometan worlds ?"
“Why should I not?”
“It may be doubted whether the question has really ever come before them in such a shape that they can be said to have pronounced judgment upon it; and as they reject Protestantism, whenever it pretends to be Christian, no less than Catholicity, they might possibly be as unsafe witnesses for a Presbyterian as for a Catholic -perhaps even more so.
“Let them go. I mean by all the world all the Christian world, Christendom so called."
"You mean to assert, then, that Christendom has pronounced judgment against the Catholic Church ?”
“Yes, against the Romish Church."
“You distinguish without a difference. The church in communion with the church of Rome, acknowledging its pontiff for its supreme head on earth, is the only church which, by the consent of mankind, is or ever has been denominated the Catholic Church.”
“She should be denominated the mother of harlots."
“So that Protestant communions might claim to be her daughters. But no more of this. Have Catholics, who remain in her communion, pronounced judgment against the church?”
• Perhaps not.”
" And they are as two, if not three, to one of all who bear the Christian name.”
“I am sorry to say they are.”
“And I am not sorry, and would to God there were none but Catholics on the earth !”
“That is, you would, if you could, exterminate all Protestants.”
“Yes, if making them sincere and humble Catholics were exterminating them. But if Catholics are the great majority of Christendom, how can you tell me that Christendom has pronounced judgment against the church?”
“I do not reckon Papists among Christians.” “And I regard what you call Papists as the only true Christians; and I have, to say the least, as much right to my reckoning as you have to yours. You mean, then, by Christendom those who protest against the church?”
“ You may have it so."
“Then your position is, the church is condemned by all by whom she is condemned! This may be granted. But these are a small minority, a mere handful, of those who bear the Christian name. By what right do you pronounce their judgment the judgment of mankind ?"
“Protestant nations are the more enlightened and advanced portion of mankind.”
“ Is that a conceded fact?"
“They are the great majority, and, as they deny it, how can you put it forth as generally conceded ?"
“ The denial of Catholics amounts to nothing,--the fact is as I allege."
“ In whose judgment?”