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OF THE RULE OF FAITH.
THIS IS TwoFOLD. I. The written and unwritten word of God: that is SCRIPTURE, and TRADITION.
“ The whole doctrine to be delivered to the faithful is contained in the word of God. Which word of God is distributed into Scripture and Tradition,” (Pref. to Romish Cat.) which Tradition “is to be regarded and venerated with equal respect and piety as the written word of God.” (Conc. Trid. Sess. IV.) Beside the books usually called Canonical, the Church of Rome admits those styled Apocryphal, “and if any man shall not receive these whole books, with all parts of them, as they are wont to be read in the Catholic Church, and as they are had in the old Vulgate Edition, for holy and canonical, let him be accursed;” (Conc. Trid. Sess. IV.) and, passing by the claims of the Original Hebrew and Greek (1.) Scriptures, it is said, “the Holy Synod (of Trent) decreeth, that the old Vulgate Latin Edition in all lectures, disputations, sermons, expositions, be held for authentical.” (Sess. IV.) It is, moreover added, that no one should dare to even to possess” these Scriptures, without “license from the Ordinary.” And “inasmuch as it is manifest from experience, that if the Holy Bible, translated into the vulgar tongue, be indiscriminately allowed
to every one, the temerity of men will cause more evil than good to arise from it—it is on this point referred to the judgment of the Bishops, or Inquisitors, who may, by the advice of the Priest or Confessor, PERMIT the reading of the Bible, translated into the vulgar tongue by Catholic Authors, to those persons whose faith and piety, they apprehend, will be augmented, and not injured by it; and this permission they must have in writing. But if any one shall have the presumption to read or possess it without such written permission, he shall not receive absolution until he shall have first delivered up such Bible to the Ordinary. Booksellers who shall sell, or otherwise dispose of Bibles in the vulgar tongue to any person not having such permission, shall forfeit the value of the books, to be applied by the Bishop to some pious use, and shall be subjected to such other penalties as the Bishop shall judge proper. But regulars shall neither read nor purchase such Bibles, without a special license from their superiors.” (Reg. IV. Ind. Lib.)
Perfectly in unison with this decree is the Encyclical Letter of the late Pontiff, Leo XII, in which the Clergy are instructed to teach the faithful entrusted to their care strictly to adhere to the preceding canon, “persuaded that if the Sacred Scriptures be every where indiscriminately published, more evil than advantage will arise thence on account of the rashness of men.”
And the Holy Scriptures are only to be admitted, in the same sense that Holy Mother Church doth, “whose province alone it is to judge of the true sense and interpretation of the Scriptures,” (Id.) whilst “all Apostolical and Ecclesiastical traditions, and all observations and constitutions of the Church, are to be most firmly admitted and embraced.” (2.) (Pope Pius's Creed.) “ For all saving truth is not contained in the Sacred Scriptures, but partly in Scrip
ture, and partly in unwritten Tradition, which whosoever doth not receive in like piety and reverence as he doth the Scriptures, is accursed.” (Con. Trid. Sess. IV. De Can. Scrip.) Tradition is defined as “embracing the doctrine which the Catholic Church, instructed by our Lord himself, and by his Apostles, and taught by the Holy Spirit, daily suggesting to them all truth, has always preserved, and will preserve unto the end of the world.” (Conc. Trid. Decr. de Sac. Euch.) “For the Catholic Christian," observes the learned Bossuet, Bishop of Meaux,” forms not his faith by reading the Scriptures; his faith is already formed before he begins to read; reading serves only to confirm what he before believed ; that is, to confirm the doctrine which the Church had delivered to him.” (Confer. avec M. Claude, page 330.) (3.)
II. Decrees of Councils.
“ All and singular things which in the Holy Council of Trent were defined and declared about original sin and justification are to be embraced and received ;
as, also, “all other things, delivered, defined, and declared by the Sacred Canons and Ecumenical Councils, especially of the Holy Synod of Trent, are without doubting to be received and professed.”' (Pope Pius IV's Creed.) But, “it is manifest from experience, that, if the Holy Bible be indiscriminately permitted every where in the vulgar tongue, more injury than good will be produced, from the temerity of man.” (Ind. Lib. Prohib.) “Wherefore, the Bible, either in whole or part, whether printed, or in manuscript, is prohibited to be used in the vulgar tongue.” The transgression of this rule renders the transgressor “incapable of the benefit of absolution.” In one of the regulations of the Council of Trent, it is declared “ that since the promiscuous allowance of the Bible in the vulgar tongue, has been proved by experience to do more harm than good, it is deter
mined that a discretionary power should be invested in the curate or confessor, to allow such versions to be read by those only who would suffer no detriment from the reading, but would receive increase of faith and piety.” (4.)
(1.) Bellarmine (De Verb. Lib. II. c. 11,) says, “ that the fountain of the originals in many places runs muddy and impure;" and he elsewhere adds, (De Verb. Lib. III. c. 1,) “It must needs be confessed, that the Scriptures are most obscure.” The Church of England, however, thus decides, “The word of God is bright, giving light unto all men's eyes, the shining lamp. directing all men's paths and steps. Here old men and young, rich and poor, all men and women, all estates, sexes, and ages, are taught their several duties in the word of God. Hom. against Rebellion.
(2.) “ During the dark ages there was scarcely anything but Tradition; its reign was that of ignorance, wickedness, and terror; and it has ever been found that in proportion to the prevalence of tradition, has been the prevalence of error, impiety, and misery. After all, what is this boasted tradition? It is merely a collection of fantastic expositions, specious inventions, and sinful expedients, casually contributed from different quarters, and at different times, by men who, on a variety of accounts, happened to obtain reputation and ascendancy in the Church. If by Tradition is sincerely meant, the handing down of unwritten truth from one generation to another, from the days of the Apostles, it is idle to talk either for or against its properties and claims :—there is no such thing. The very term Tradition is a deception; and as that which it ought to represent has no existence, universal Tradition is universal ima posture. The confession of the Bishops assembled at Bononia, in their Council, to Pope Julius the third, was honest and candid, ' we plainly confess among ourselves, that we cannot prove that which we hold and teach concerning traditions, but we have some conjecture only. And again, “In truth, whosoever shall diligently consider the Scripture, and then all things that are done in our churches, will find there is a great difference between them, and that this doctrine of ours is very unlike, and, in many things, quite repugnant to it.'”
Protestants do well in rejecting Tradition, because it is an uncertain guide ; if we ask why one Tradition, mentioned by the Fathers, is received and another rejected, we are told it is done by the authority of the Church; and if we inquire upon what rests the power of the Church to adopt or reject?—Upon Tradition: and that must be an uncertain guide that has no atthority but its own. Again, it is a deceitful guide, because some of the authorities brought to support it, are contradictory to each other, and some of the doctrines it teaches are inconsistent with each other. If tradition be an uncertain guide, it may deceive us, and if it deceive, it may destroy us, and therefore it is a dangerous guide, and they are the wisest who reject it altogether. But the chief reason which induced the Protestants at first, and still influences them, to reject Tradition is this, that it totally alters the whole nature of the Christian religion, and destroys its character. It dishonours God, by encouraging idolatry; it degrades man, by patronizing childish superstitions; and it encourages every sin, by the sale of Indulgences. The Pope claims on the authority of Tradition, to be regarded as the successor of St. Peter; but in what does he resemble him P. The Apostle says to Christians, “Ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation, received by Tradition from your fathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a Lamb without blemish and without spot; ” but the Pope tells his people quite the contrary; and there is no one spiritual benefit bestowed on a Romanist in any part of the world, unless he pays for it. St. Peter would not suffer Cornelius to worship him: (Acts x. 25, 26:) but the Pope must be adored by his Cardinals, and has made Kings to kiss his feet. The Romanists say, that the Scripture speaks of Tradition, and therefore we do wrong to reject it. St. Paul does refer to Tradition; (2 Thess. ii. 15, and iii. 6;) but who will say that he referred to his having taught doctrines no where mentioned in his writings; or that he in this place, or our Lord, when he said “I have many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now,” referred to conferences with the disciples about Reliques, works of Supererogation, Purgatory, worship of the Virgin, Supremacy of the Pope, or Invocation of Saints? They urge upon us further, that if we reject tradition, we reject what is necessary to prove the authority of the New Testament; for how can