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The same objection, founded on the absence of a general agreement, or tendency to agreement, among the principal theologians of Christendom, applies also to each of the Protestant creeds. The existence of the non-Protestant sects weakens the authority of the divines of the Protestant churches; the existence of the non-Catholic sects weakens the authority of the divines of the Church of Rome. The authority of each Protestant church is, again, still further weakened by the existence of mutual differences between Protestants as to their respective tenets.1

Besides which, the Protestant writers lay less stress on the authoritative teaching of the church; they admit that national churches have erred; and they hold that no doctrine of any church is binding, unless it can be proved by Scripture. The teaching of the church is not, as such, according to them, decisive; it must be demonstrably founded on Scripture authority. Add to which, that while they refer to Scripture as their exclusive canon of religious truth, they scarcely claim to possess any rule of interpreting Scripture, or of resolving doubts as to the signification of particular passages. For the interpretation of Scripture, each Protestant church relies upon the expositions of approved commentators, and, in doctrinal passages, principally on those of its own communion, but without setting up any infallible rule or standard of interpretation."

§ 15. On account of the intrinsic obscurity and transcendental nature of the leading ideas in theology, and of the difficulty of arriving, even with the aid of revelation, at distinct and intelligible conclusions on subjects lying without the domain of human consciousness or sensation, it would be extremely desirable, for the guidance of people in general, that a consentient authority in questions of Christian theology should exist. The attempts to remove error, to enlighten dissidents from the true faith, to create a trustworthy authority in things spiritual, and to produce a unity of the church, have been ill-devised and unsuccessful-but they have almost invariably been sincere. They have originated in a sense of the evils springing from diversity of religious opinion, without a common living point of reference, and of the advantages likely to accrue from uniformity of faith and church discipline. Instead, however, of resorting to conciliatory courses, and

1 See Bossuet, Variations des Églises Protestantes, Pref. sect. 16.

2 See the Protestant doctrine of Scripture-interpretation explained at large, by Jeremy Taylor, in the Liberty of Prophesying, sect. 4.

of endeavouring to diminish differences by amicable explanations and mutual concessions, the teachers of theology and leaders of churches and sects have, in general, condemned diversities of opinion with asperity, and in a confident and intolerant spirit, which has provoked retaliation and perpetuated division. By seeking thus to propagate truth in a matter in which allowances ought peculiarly to be made for difference of opinion, divines have multiplied controversies beyond all reasonable limits; so that the most patient student is bewildered in the labyrinth of discussion, and the most deferential inquirer is at a loss to which authority he is to bow. When, however, a person, either from a firm reliance on the creed of the church in which he has been brought up, or from independent examination, is satisfied of the general truth of the doctrines of any particular church, he will naturally regard with respect the divines who are considered as authorities within that religious communion. In all controversies and discussions, too, carried on between members of the same church, the works of the received text-writers and leading divines of that church will be referred to as a common authority and standard of decision. It is in this sense that the Church of England, according to the opinion of the best expositors of its articles, claims authority in matters of faith, (Art. XX.) Its authority is limited to its own members.

This is, in substance, the view of church authority which is taken by Hooker. In determining the Rule of Faith, he places Scripture in the first rank; and, in the next, such direct and manifest inferences from it as each person may make by his own unassisted judgment. The last place he assigns to the authority of the church, which he justly considers as more competent, in a corporate capacity, to decide doubtful questions than any of its individual members.1

§ 16. On reviewing what has been said above on the state of religious opinion in Christendom, and the claim to authority

1 'Be it matter of the one kind or of the other [i. e., matter of order or of doctrine], what Scripture doth plainly deliver, to that the first place both of credit and obedience is due; the next whereunto is whatsoever any man can necessarily conclude by force of reason; after these the voice of the church succeedeth. That which the church by her ecclesiastical authority shall probably think and define to be true or good, must in congruity of reason overrule all other inferior judgments whatsoever.'-Eccl. Pol. b. v. ch. viii. § 2. Compare also Pref. c. iii. §§ 1, 2, and b. ii., where, confuting the exaggerations of the Puritans, he shows that human reason is the ultimate test in judging of Scripture. A similar view of church authority is taken by Dr. Hampden, Bampton Lectures, Lect. 8, p. 372, ed. 2.

possessed by any one of its churches or sections, we are led to the following conclusions:

1. That no agreement as to the distinctive or characteristic doctrines of the several Christian sects exists among the theologians of Christendom, and, consequently, that no church or denomination of Christians can claim assent to its tenets, and by its legitimate authority command the belief of a conscientious inquirer, on the grounds on which a reasonable deference may be paid to authority in secular matters.

2. That although there is no agreement as to the peculiar doctrines of any Christian church, there is an agreement among all civilised nations in accepting some form of Christianity, and in recognising the Christian revelation according to some construction of its effect and intent.

The practical deduction from these results seems to be, that the mere authority of any church or sect cannot of itself reasonably command assent to its distinctive and peculiar tenets, while the present divisions of Christendom continue; and that a person born in a Christian country can only with propriety adopt one of two alternatives-viz., either to adhere to the faith of his parents and predecessors, and that of the church in which he has been educated, or, if he is unwilling to abide by this creed, to form his own judgment as to the choice of his sect by means of the best independent investigation which his understanding and opportunities for study enable him to make.

This conclusion is, in the main, identical with the result at which Jeremy Taylor arrives in his Liberty of Prophesying, with whose words I will conclude this chapter.


Although,' (he says,) we are secured in fundamental points from involuntary error, by the plain, express, and dogmatical places of Scripture, yet in other things we are not, but may be invincibly mistaken, because of the obscurity and difficulty in the controverted parts of Scripture, by reason of the uncertainty of the means of its interpretation; since tradition is of an uncertain reputation, and sometimes evidently false; councils are contradictory to each other, and therefore certainly are equally deceived many of them, and therefore all may; and then the popes of Rome are very likely to mislead us, but cannot ascertain us of truth in matter of question; and in this world we believe in part, and prophesy in part; and this imperfection shall never be done away till we be translated to a more glorious state: either we

must throw our chances, and get truth by accident or predestination, or else we must lie safe in a mutual toleration, and private liberty of persuasion, unless some other anchor can be thought upon, where we may fasten our floating vessels, and ride safely.'— Sect. VII., ad fin.


NOTE A. (page 51.)

'Ir is, indeed, true that the prevalence of internal differences disturbed the unity of collective Christendom; but, if we do not deceive ourselves, it is another universal law of human things that this disturbance prepared a higher and a larger development of the human mind.

'In the press of the universal struggle, religion was conceived by different nations after the different varieties of its dogmatical forms. The peculiar dogma adopted was incorporated with the feeling of nationality, as a possession of the community-of the state or the people. It was won by the sword-maintained amidst a thousand dangers; it had become part of the life's blood of the nations.

"Hence it has come to pass, that the states on either side have grown into great ecclesiastico-political bodies, whose individuality is marked-on the Catholic, by the measure of their devotedness to the Roman see, and of the degree of toleration or exclusion of non-Catholics; but still more strongly on the Protestant, where the departure from the symbolical books adopted as tests, the mixture of the Lutheran and the Calvinistic creeds, the greater or less approximation to an episcopal constitution of the church, form so many striking and obvious distinctions. The first question in every country is-what is its predominant religion? Christianity appears under various forms; but, however great be the discrepancies between them, no party can deny to another the session of the fundamentals of faith. On the contrary, these several forms are guaranteed by compacts and by treaties of peace, to which all are parties, and which are, as it were, the fundamental laws of a universal republic. Never more can the thought of exalting the one or the other confession to universal supremacy find place among men. The only consideration now is, how each state, each people, can best proceed from the basis of its own politico-religious principles to the development of its intellectual and moral powers. On this depends the future condition of the world.'-RANKE'S Popes of Rome, vol. ii. ad fin. Engl.


NOTE B. (page 62.)


The transmission of the evidence for an historical fact by oral tradition may be illustrated by the celebrated story of the ring, which the favourite Essex is said to have sent to Queen Elizabeth before his execution. This story was handed down by tradition in the family of the Earl of Monmouth, and was first published, in an authentic form, by Mr. Birch, in 1749. The Countess of Nottingham, who appears as a principal party in the transaction, was

the wife of the Lord High Admiral, and sister of Robert, Earl of Monmouth. Henry, Earl of Monmouth, son of Earl Robert, had a daughter Martha, who married John, Earl of Middleton. Lady Elizabeth Spelman was the daughter of the Earl and Countess of Middleton; and from her report, (who was the greatgranddaughter of the Countess of Nottingham's brother,) Birch published the particulars of the tradition in the reign of George II. (Negotiations, p. 206.) The story had, however, obtained publicity at an earlier period; it was known in the reign of Charles I. to Mr. Hyde, who disbelieved it-to Sir Dudley Carleton, who told it to Prince Maurice in Holland, (see Birch's Memoirs of Queen Elizabeth, pp. 481, 490,) and to Francis Osborn, who published it in his Traditional Memoirs on the Reign of Queen Elizabeth, in 1658, pp. 92–5. According to these versions of the story, the ring was sent by Essex to the Countess of Nottingham, to be given to the Queen; but according to Lady Elizabeth Spelman's version, the ring was sent to Lady Scrope, and given by mistake to her sister, Lady Nottingham. Upon the evidence of the tradition published by Birch, the story has been accepted as true by Hume and other historians.

NOTE C. (page 67.)

It is curious to compare the difficulties started by Lucian with respect to the choice of a particular sect among the several schools of ancient philosophy. The impossibility of personally investigating the doctrines of each sect, and the absence of all à priori authority in favour of any, are urged by him with his usual ingenuity and power of sarcasm in the dialogue entitled Hermotimus, ǹ πɛņi aipéσɛwr. In this dialogue, Hermotimus, a Stoic philosopher, is pressed by his friend Lycinus to state his reasons for selecting the Stoic sect in preference to the others. The following is an outline of the argument :—

Lycinus begins by asking Hermotimus what induced him, when there were so many philosophic schools, to prefer the Stoic sect, while he was still a common man, an idiúrns, and ignorant of philosophy? Were you (he says) directed to it by the voice of an oracle? (c. 15.) Hermotimus answers that he made the choice upon his own judgment, and that, in choosing the true philosophy, he was guided by the numbers of its adherents. Being asked how he knew that the Stoics were more numerous than the Epicureans or Peripatetics, and whether he counted them as at a public vote, (καθάπερ ἐνταῖς χειροτονίαις,) he says that he guessed their number. Lycinus remarks upon the unsatisfactory nature of this test, and Hermotimus then adds that he had another reason; he had heard everybody say that the Epicureans were addicted to pleasure, that the Peripatetics were fond of money, and the Platonics full of conceit; but that the Stoics were enduring and wise, and that their followers were the only perfect men, (c. 16.) Having furnished this second test, he is forced to admit that he did not take this favourable character of the Stoics from the Stoics themselves, or the unfavourable character of the other sects from those sects; and he does not deny that he took it from the ignorant and illiterate. Upon Lycinus expressing his wonder that any one should have derived his opinions respecting philosophy from such an authority, Hermotimus tries another ground. He had always observed (he says) that the Stoics were decent and serious in their demeanour, properly clothed, holding a fit medium between effeminary and negligence, with their heads close shaven. Lycinus inquires whether we are to judge of merit merely

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