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“ That is against you, and in favor of the church, as we have already seen, and is conceded in the fact that the church is allowed to plead prescription.”
“Theni to the written word, interpreted and its sense declared by the Holy Ghost.”
“ Establish the fact of such a court, and she will not refuse to appear and answer. But she claims to be that court herself, and is in possession as that court; you must dispossess her by direct impeachment of her claims, or by establishing, before a competent tribunal, the rights of an adverse claimant, before you can allege such a court.”
“The reformers were aided by the private illumination of the Holy Ghost, and what they did, they did in obedience to his commands."
“That was for them to prove."
“But they could prove nothing from the written word, for they had no legal possession of it."
“ They had legal possession of it. The Holy Ghost gave them legal possession of it.”
“ What and where was the evidence of that fact, if fact it was?”
“ In the Scriptures."
“That is, they proved by the Holy Spirit that they had legal possession of the Holy Scriptures, and by the Holy Scriptures that they had the Holy Ghost! But this was to reason in a vicious circle."
“ The reformers set forth other and conclusive reasons for rejecting the church, which I will reproduce on another day ; but you must excuse me now, for I have some parochial duties to which I must attend."
“So you give up the first reason, namely, our Lord founded no such church as the Catholic ?”
“Not by any means. I may have erred in bringing that forward before the others. I ought not to have departed from the example of the reformers. They did not allege that reason first, and I see now that they were wise in not doing so. They first proved that the church had forfeited her rights, by having abused her trusts. Having thus ejected her, they took possession of the word, and easily and clearly demonstrated that she had been null from the beginning, by showing that our Lord never contemplated such a church."
“ That is, they dispossessed themselves by acquiring possession. Very good Protestant law and logic.”
“ You may spare your sneer, for perhaps it will soon be retorted with seven-fold vengeance.'
“O, not so bad as that, I hope."
i We shall see. I will, God willing, prove that the reformers were rigid reasoners, and sound lawyers.”
is An Herculean task. Clearing the Augean stables was casy compared with it."
• The reformers were great and glorious men, rare men, the like of whom will not soon be seen again.”
“ Some consolation in that.”
"To call such men miserable pettifoggers and shallow sophists is”
"To use soft words, which turn away wrath.”
Why, would you censure me for not calling them by harder names? I might have easily done so, but I wished to spare your prejudices as much as possible.”
“I tell you, John, that, in becoming a miserable idolatrous Papist, and drunk with the cup of that sorceress of Babyion, the mother of every abomination, you seem to have lost all sense of dignity, all self-respect, and all regard for the proprieties of civilized life.”
“Because I do not rave and rant, every time I have occasion to allude to the chiefs of the Protestant rebellion ? "
“No; you know that is not what I mean. You degrade yourself in speaking so contemptously of the glorious reformers."
“And what does my most excellent, amiable, polite, and sweet-spoken brother do, when he calls God's Holy Church the sorceress of Babylon, &c., and brands the members of her holy communion with the name of idolaters ?”
ONLY a few days elapsed before John, finding his brother apparently at leisure, pressed him to redeem his promise.
* You are prepared, brother, by this time, I presume, to undertake your vindication of the reformers, and to prove that they were sound lawyers and rigid reasoners."
“ The church has so spread out her claims over every thing, that it is hard to construct an argument against her, which does not apparently take for granted some point
which she contends is the point to be proved; but the devil, though cunning, can be outwitted.”
“ What! by heretics ?”
“ The church is in possession; and since Protestants break away from her and contend for what she declares to be contrary to the faith, they are at least presumptively heretics, and are to be treated as such, unless they prove the con
"The church is in possession de facto, not de jure. She is a usurper."
“Possession de facto, we have agreed, is prima facie evidence of title. The reformers were, therefore, as we have seen, bound either to admit it, or show good and valid reasons for questioning it." “ True; but they showed such reasons." you have said, but you
have not told me the reasons themselves.”
“I gave you as one of those reasons, the fact that our Lord founded no such church as the Romish."
“But that was a reason you could not assign, because the simple fact of the existence of the church in possession was prima facie evidence to the contrary."
"I offered to prove my position from the word of God.”
“But could not, because the church was in possession as the keeper and interpreter of the word, and you could not adduce it in a sense contrary to hers without begging the question.”
“I have the word as well as she, and it interprets itself."
“That you have the word, or that it interprets itself, you were not able to prove. Moreover, the argument may be retorted. The church has the word as well as you, and the word interprets itself. She alleges that the word is against you, and her allegation, at the very lowest, is as good against your position as yours is against hers.”
“I deny her infallibility.”
I claim infallibility for the word of God.” “That is what logicians call ignorantia elenchi. But do you claim infallibility for your own private understanding of the word ?”
“The church, at the very worst, is only fallible, and therefore, at the very worst, is as good as you at the very best, for at the very best you are not infallible. Consequently, your allegations of what is the word of God can never be a sufficient motive for setting aside hers. Nothing, then, which you can adduce from the Scriptures, even conceding you all the right to appeal to them you claim, can be sufiicient to invalidate her title. As she, at worst, stands on as high ground as you can even at best, her simple declaration that the word of God is in her favor is as good as any declarations you can make to the contrary. The proof, then, which you offered to introduce, would have availed you nothing, even if you had been permitted to introduce it."
“I do not adınit that. I offered to prove, and I am able to prove, from the Holy Scriptures, that our Lord founded no such church as the Romish.”
“ It is certain that you can introduce no passage of Scripture which expressly, 'in so many words, declares that our Lord founded no such church. If, then, you can prove it from the Scriptures at all, you can prove it only by means of the interpretations you put upon the sacred text. But, at any rate, and on any conceivable hypothesis, the church has as much right to interpret the sacred text as you have, and her interpretations have, to say the least, as high authority as, granting you all you ask, yours can have. But she interprets the word in her favor, and, according to her interpretations of the word, it is clear and undeniable that it is in her favor, and that our Lord did found such a church as she claims to be. Since, then, your interpretations can never be a sufficient motive for setting aside hers, for they at best can be no better than hers at worst, it follows necessarily that you can never, under any hypothesis, prove from the Scriptures against her, that our Lord did not found such a church as she assumes to be. All this I could say, even waiving the argument from prescription. But I do not waive that argument. You have conceded that the church was in possession. She is, then, presumptively what she claims to be. Then her interpretations are presumptively the true interpretations, and yours against her presumptively false. For you to say, then, that no such church was ever instituted, is a plain begging of the question, and so is every argument you can construct against her, drawn from the Holy Scriptures."
“But I may disprove the claims of the Romish Church by proving positively that some other church is the one actually founded by our Lord.”
• Unquestionably; but you cannot plead at one and the same time an adverse title, and that no such title was ever issued. If you plead that there was no such church ever instituted, you are debarred from pleading an adverse title ; for you plead that the church has no title, because none was ever issued. If none was ever issued, there can be none in an adverse claimant. On the other hand, if you plead an adverse title, you concede, what you have denied, that our Lord did institute such a church as the Catholic Church claims to be; that the title she possesses has been issued and vests somewhere. This changes the whole question. There is no longer any controversy between us as to the fact whether our Lord did or did not found a church in the sense alleged, but simply a question whether it be the Roman Catholic Church or some other.”
“Grant that our Lord did found such a church as is pretended,-and I believe in the Holy Catholic Church as well as you,-still I deny that it is the Romish Church."
“You join a new issue, then, and plead now, not no title, but an adverse title ? "
- Be it so, for the present."
“And what is the adverse claimant you set up against Rome?”
“ The church of which, by God's grace, I am an unworthy minister."
“ That is to say, the Presbyterian?" “Yes. The Presbyterian Church is the visible Catholic Church, out of which there is no ordinary possibility of salvation."
“ So says the Westminster Confession of Faith. But which Presbyterian church do you mean?"
"I do not understand you."
“ There are, you know, brother, quite a number of Presbyterian churches, for instance, in Scotland, the Kirk by law established, the Free Kirk, and the Seceders ; in this country, the Old School, the New School, and the Cumberland Presbyterians; in England, the Presbyterian Dissenters, for the most part Unitarian; and on the Continent, the Dutch Reformed, the Reformed German, the Genevan, and the French Fluguenots, all virtually Presbyterian churches, and very generally fallen into Socinianism, rationalism, deism, or transcendentalism. Which of these, not to mention several others, is the one you mean ?”