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the Rev. E. Bickersteth. Second Edition. 8vo. Is. 6d.
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FOR MARCH, 1828.
Art. I. 1. Authenticated Report of the Discussion which took place
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19th, &c. of April, 1827. 8vo. pp. 374. Dublin. 1827. 2. The Doctrine of the Trinity founded neither on Scripture, nor on
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pp. 188. Price 7s. London. 1826. THESE publications claimed an earlier notice. Should any
of our readers, however, be disposed to view the controversy as gone by, they would be greatly mistaken. There are some over-wise, pacific persons who deprecate keeping alive the Romish controversy; under the idea, that it inflames the spirit of party, and widens the separation between the members of the opposite communions. The fact is otherwise. Controversy is the safety-valve of theological zeal. The spirit of party is opposed to it; being too intolerant for discussion. Truth has always triumphed by means of controversy: she has grown powerless only when the sleep of lethargy has stolen upon the Church. What is Christianity itself, but a standing controversy with the infidel, the sensualist, and the formalist,—the men of this world?
We admit that the spirit of controversy, or, to speak more properly, a controversial spirit, is not in itself very conducive
VOL. XXIX. N.S.
to the cultivation of personal piety. The angry controvertist and fierce polemic is not always a devout believer, or an amiable member of society. The Church has sometimes been as much disgraced by her advocates as annoyed by her assailants; and there are intestine debates and disputes which, as friends ļo religion as well as friends to peace, we could wish to have terminated for ever. But alive, as we trust we are, to the dangers of controversy, we must nevertheless protest against that timid, trimming, self-indulgent, ultra-liberal dread of religious debate, which would bind over Truth to keep the peace with Error, and consign those celestial weapons of the spiritual armoury, reason and Scripture, to the ark of the Church, as useless regalia.
For the sake of Ireland, let the Emancipation question fare as it may, we hope that the controversy will go forward. It may alarm the priests and displease the liberals, but it will tend to do good to both parties; and the people will be at all events the gainers by the circulation of knowledge. Ignorance is always a rancorous opponent; a blind, and therefore a cruel enemy. The tiger closes his eyes before he takes bis fatal spring; and it is the same with man before he makes war upon his fellow. Ignorance is always intolerant, because it does not understand the reasons of its opponent. It is cruel, because it feels itself weak. Ignorance is always fearful; and fear, as Mr. O'Driscol in his pithy manner remarks, 'is incapable of • Christianity.' If, then, we wouid assuage the bitterness of party animosity, and allay the inveteracy of that hatred which springs from fear, we must let in the light of the press upon the contending parties, and promote those discussions which serve at least to make them better known to each other. If I can be brought to see and acknowledge that my adversary has reasons for his opinions and conduct, although those reasons appear to me insufficient and fallacious, I shall think of him with the less contempt, and at the same time, having proved my own standing to be good, shall feel towards him less apprehension. Now we never can know the true grounds of our opponent's belief and the real character of his arguments, till we learn them from himself; nor know, till they have withstood the test of assault, the validity of our own.
No Protestant, we may venture to assert, can know why he is so, or can understand what Protestantism is, in its principles, its genuine results, and the grounds upon which alone it is defensible, who has not taken pains to become acquainted with the real opinions of the Papists. There are thousands whose whole Protestantism is concentrated in a hatred of Popery,of Popery, not in the abstract as a system of error, but an his
torical personification, a robed and mitred phantom which haunts their dreams. They do not hate it because it is false, but because it may be mischievous; not because it enslaves the minds of millions, but because it may prove a source of inconvenience to themselves. Such is the true Orange-man,--the backwoodsman of the Protestant Church, himself differing but little from the victims of his warfare, and retarding, by his conduct, the advance of that moral civilization on which he prides himself. There are thousands who have no quarrel with Popery, but as being the Irish religion. It might establish itself and prosper elsewhere, and welcome. The Protestantism of others is of a less noxious, because more negative character. They neither abhor the error, nor hate those who hold it, but are for every country's having its own religion, as well as its own climate and customs; all religions being, in their estimation, equally good on their proper soil; and they are Protestants just because that system is indigenous to England. Such persons are sworn enemies to all religious discussion, to all measures of proselytism, to every thing like theological zeal. They can tolerate all creeds, but not all religions, being very apt to despise those who have more zeal than themselves, and to suspect all ministers of religion of priestcraft. Their liberality is the spurious growth of religious ignorance ; and towards all who hold a less tolerant creed than their own, they often display a most unphilosophical bigotry.
Besides these two classes of nominal Protestants, there are other descriptions of persons in this country, to whom a better acquaintance with the Romish controversy might be highly serviceable. Since that controversy has slumbered among us, it is certain, that Protestantism has, in many high quarters, undergone considerable deterioration. The doctrine of Justification as held and maintained by many divines of the present day, is certainly not the same that was advanced by Luther and defended by Hooker. Nor are the grounds of Protestantism by any means clearly understood and recognized by the major part of the Protestant clergy. It is a most remarkable fact, that towards Protestantism as such, when undignified by Episcopacy, the clergy of England have never discovered any very kindly feeling. It has only been upon emergencies, and as it were by compulsion, that the principles of the Reformation have in later days been brought into the field. The fear that the Dissenters should get possession of the great guns, has led to a very cautious employment of the true Protestant artillery. Hence, the champions of the English Church have generally preferred to attack the errors, rather than the claims of the Church of Rome,-to disprove its infallibility, rather than to expose its usurpation; and have talked more of the political danger, than of the spiritual wickedness of Popery. With regard to the sacred right of private judgement in matters of faith, -that is to say the unalienable right of conscience which springs from our accountableness to God for our belief,-it is given up by many who call themselves Protestants, as a principle indefensible, latitudinarian, and dangerous; and in its place is substituted a principle which is neither Catholic nor Protestant,—the public right of national churches. Such was the Protestantism, we admit, of Henry VIII. and Elizabeth, but not of Luther and Wicliffe, nor yet of Chillingworth and Barrow.
Gladly then do we hail that resurrection of genuine Protestant principles which is taking place in Ireland, as the consequence of the stir of controversy and the activity of religious inquiry. Those principles which achieved the first great reformation, can alone bring about a second revolution that shall deserve the name; and when Protestants better understand those principles, they will be able to make more efficient use of their weapons,
and with better success. • If the infallibility of the Latin Church could be clearly • established,' Mr. Faber remarks, no person could rationally • object to her theological decisions : for it were palpable madness in a fallible being, to contend against acknowledged infallibility. Hence I have ever thought that the establish* ment of infallibility is the very nucleus of the Roman contro
versy.' In our judgement, it is far from being so. If the question lay merely between two rival ehurches differing in their theological decisions, the one laying claim to infallibility, and the other resisting that claim, Mr. Faber would be right. But who does not know, that this abstract infallibility is a point of honour with the Romish Church, rather than the foundation of its claims?-just as it is a point of honour with the English Church, to maintain its own authority and immaculate orthodoxy. The infallibility of the Pope is given up by every enlightened Romanist. The necessary or inherent infallibility of councils cannot be maintained, the authority of certain councils only being recognized. The Romish casuists are compelled to say, that the infallibility of a council is dependent upon the subsequent approbation of the holy see, two fallibles thus making up one compound infallibility. But this infallibility, with which the Romanist is so much embarrassed that he does not know where to deposit it, is but an attribute of that authority which he claims for his Church, not the essence of the thing. The Church of England disclaims infallibility, yet asserts its own authority in matters of faith. If