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be professedly founded on truth, it must at some stage appeal to reason; and so far from resigning ourselves to the influence of other sources of persuasion, we must use every effort to preserve the unbiassed exercise of our understanding, -to guard against its perversion by passion or prejudice,— against being blinded to a correct perception of facts, or viewing evidence in a false light. Truth imposed by authority, or insinuated under the excitement of emotions, is divested of all its attributes; without evidence or reason, it is undistinguishable from error. In its admission, there can be no place for compulsion under any form: if the assent be not perfectly free, it is worthless. The essence of a real reception of truth lies in the spontaneous nature of the conviction: the suspicion of extraneous influence destroys its purity; the quality of truth, like that of mercy, "is not strained."

Again, if, in its pursuit, the opinions adopted should be sometimes wild, visionary, or even pernicious, yet they are in their very nature open to correction by the further enlightenment which must arise from continued inquiry, especially when put to the proof through free discussion. On the other hand, dread of inquiry, repression of free discussion and servile subjection to the trammels of authority, never fail to show their baneful effects by plunging the mind into a helpless apathy; so that truth and error find entrance equally unchallenged, but not equally unproductive, since the contamination of error is of necessity predominant.

The entire system of Protestantism can stand on no narrower ground than an unlimited freedom of opinion, and the exercise of reason unfettered by authority. Yet with a strange inconsistency, the practical manifestation of these broad principles is opposed upon a variety of pretexts by professed admirers of the Reformation. Some, who allow the freedom of private judgement in general, yet seem to regard its unlimited assertion as an extreme opinion, which requires to be qualified by the condition of ability in the individual to exercise such judgement. They urge the absurdity of "giving fools the right to judge wrong," which may be conceded when they can prove who is to be the judge of the folly or of the error. In principle it is manifest that no such limit can be imposed, until there be shown to exist some authority to impose it;

in practice, it may suffice to ask whether there are not on all sides abundant checks upon extravagances of opinion? Moreover there is no true parallel between religion and matters of human knowledge: our judgements on these subjects must have more or less reference to the opinions of other men ; but in religion, only to what we believe to be the Word of God. In the paramount question of religious truth, all these considerations acquire a more peculiar and essentially characteristic force. Here truth, to produce its proper effect, must be identified with individual conviction; here a man's belief must be truly his own, if it is to be of any avail to him; its whole efficacy depends on the degree in which it is realized as the act and deed of the individual's own conscience; personal conviction is here inseparably combined with personal responsibility.

That security against error is to be found only in the bosom of the Church, has ever been a prevailing argument of the Catholicists. They even turn the very notion of Protestant liberality in favour of their own claims; for, say they, you charitably allow that all parties may be right, and our Church of course among the number; but if we are in the right, all others are in the wrong: thus on your own principle you are bound to join us.

The necessity of an unerring guide to the truth is urged to prove that such a guide must have been vouchsafed,—that in fact without it the very design of the Christian revelation must be frustrated; and where shall this guidance be found except in the Catholic Church,-in its original unbroken universality, as it existed before the convulsion of the Reformation tore from it its fairest branches? No pretext can be more acceptable to human nature. The best and wisest men have ever been toiling after the truth; how invaluable then are infallible means of fully and finally determining it! Accordingly, no argument has been more successful in gaining converts; it was this argument which, adroitly applied by the Jesuit Fisher, succeeded in gaining over Chillingworth to the Roman Catholic faith; and which is equally effectual (notwithstanding all the palpable inconsistencies which in this instance embarrass it) in the hands of the Anglicists of the present day. Indeed, this kind of argument (as we may call

it) à tutiori, is peculiarly powerful on all subjects with that large class of minds which prefer acquiescing in what is proposed as a safe course, to the danger and labour of inquiring whether it be so. It is also often employed, without due consideration of the consequences, in defence even of Christianity itself; but surely this shows a singular want of discernment; for what system, once established, may not thus be defended as eminently safe, when contrasted with the danger of demolishing even a false theory, which has once become firmly grounded on popular feelings, prejudices and interests? Yet the argument itself is but that of the quack, who recommends his nostrums on the satisfactory assurance, that they can at least do no harm,-an assertion which dupes will never think of inquiring into.

We need not be surprised then at the confident boast of Romanism, that the only security from fatal error in doctrine is within the pale of infallible authority, which alone can preserve the truth in its purity. The moment, it is said, a man quits the teaching of the Catholic Church, and follows free inquiry and private judgement, he has commenced the downward course, in which he will not stop till he ends in entire unbelief. Once venturing to reason on subjects which should be guarded by the mystery of faith, he inevitably falls in rapid succession from one depth of error to another. He appeals to the Bible, and discards transubstantiation and purgatory; he becomes a Lutheran or a Calvinist. But by the very same process again he soon rejects predestination; hence he quickly advances to a similar latitude of opinion on original sin and the atonement: he adopts Sabellianism, and thence Arianism; from this it is but a step to Socinianism: and thus reasoning away all that is mysterious, he speedily discards revelation altogether, and ends in total unbelief. "Either Catholic or Infidel," said Fenelon; "there is no middle course."

It is curious to observe the shifts to which some Protestant advocates are put in replying, and the perplexity in which they involve themselves, through the common ignorance of the real principle of Protestantism; they have endeavoured to set a limit to inquiry, to define its legitimate province, and, VOL. XVII.—No. XXXIII.


permitting its use to a certain extent, to prohibit all advance beyond. They would allow as a privilege, and even urge as a duty, the exercise of private judgement within certain limits and under certain restrictions; much as if they should allow a man the free use of his eyes,-but only to see certain objects. They forget that the exercise of private judgement is a matter of unavoidable necessity, unless there be a paramount authority to supply its place. Again, all attempt to limit it is inconsistent with the very nature of Protestantism, since it assumes the prerogative of some power superior to reason, which must be implied in order to impose any limit,-an authority vested somewhere to decide for us. Any such pretence among Protestants must nullify itself; if one party draw the line at one gradation of opinion, another may with equal right place it at another; and thus we do but recur to the same unlimited diversity of judgement as before.

The only reply, in fact, is simply to admit the truth of the entire representation. It is undeniable that, when a man quits the pale of infallibility and follows his own convictions, he may fall into every one of the several shades of opinion above described, since the free exercise of his private judgement is in no case exempted from error or instability. Nay more,― we would not only admit the truth of the representation, but glory in it. When we embrace the principle of Protestantism, we necessarily cast off all subjection to authority; our boast is that there is no principle of obligation in our belief, no compulsion in its profession. There is, indeed, nothing to hinder a Protestant from becoming in turn an Arminian, a Sabellian, a Socinian or even a Deist: there is no authority to prohibit or prevent him. He has the same moral right to adopt one form of opinion as another, supposing only that it be not done in wilfulness or wantonness, upon slight examination or indolent acquiescence; but that upon serious and patient inquiry he has become conscientiously persuaded of the truth of the view he adopts. The true Protestant disdains all security for the truth but such as arises from its own incorruptible character, which rejects all artificial support. It is endangered only by restriction,-it lives in the unlimited freedom of discussion.

It may be asked, Has then a man the same right to uphold atheism or idolatry, as Christianity and holiness,—a moral right to hold immoral opinions? The real question is, Has he a right to maintain error which he honestly mistakes for truth? for no one would countenance the dishonest support of any opinion. If he is sincere in his views, we may indeed pity the blindness of his judgement, but can have no right to censure him for maintaining in a becoming manner what he seriously believes to be the truth. If a question be raised as to his sincerity and motives, the argument is shifted to a different ground. The dishonest maintenance of even truth and virtue is not less culpable than the wilful upholding of falsehood and vice. If then consistent and tolerant advocates of religion in any case think themselves justified in condemning the upholders of such sentiments, it is not that they mean to deny the same liberty to conscientious objectors which they claim for themselves, but that they cannot, in the particular case, believe the professors of those opinions honest or sincere. They believe the principles of natural religion and the distinctions of right and wrong to be so obvious and universal, that they cannot credit the possibility of any one being really mistaken in upholding the contrary: they censure others therefore, not for holding their opinions as such, but for manifest insincerity and had motives.

Finally, the practical tendency of free Protestantism is not in the direction of unbelief. The testimony of all history is at variance with such an inference. The perversion of the Protestant principle has always led, either towards the opposite extreme of fanaticism, or, more extensively perhaps, towards a narrow and formal orthodoxy; while the tendency to infidelity might with much more truth (speaking of it as a system) be urged against Catholicism, whether Roman or Anglican, which in some of its principles involves much that is at least very congenial to such a spirit. In the early ages of the Catholic system, the implicit submission claimed by the Church was not always yielded with corresponding readiness; and though some authors have extolled the middle ages as patterns of dutiful submission, and have even conferred on them the distinctive title of the "ages of faith,”--yet a

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