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NO PART OF THE CHRISTIAN REVELATION HANDED DOWN BY UNWRITTEN TRADITION.
IN the former part of this work it was seen that it was not only necessary to show that the apocryphal writings had no right to a place in the sacred volume, but that there was no additional revelation which had been handed down by oral tradition. The same necessity devolves upon us in relation to the New Testament; for while it is pretty generally agreed by all Christians what books should be received into the Canon, there is a large society which strenuously maintains that besides the revelation contained in the divine record written by the apostles and their assistants, by the plenary inspiration of the Holy Spirit, there is a further revelation consisting of such things as were received from the mouth of Christ himself while upon earth, or taught to the churches by his inspired apostles, which were not by them nor in their time committed to writing, but which have come down to us by unbroken tradition.
The importance of this inquiry is manifest; for if, in addition to the written word, there are important doctrines and necessary sacraments of the church which have come down by tradition, it would be 302perilous thing for us to remain ignorant of those things which God has enjoined, or to deprive ourselves of the benefits to be derived from those means of grace, which he has instituted for the edification and salvation of the church. But seeing traditions are much more liable to alteration and corruption than written documents, it is very necessary that we should be on our guard against imposition; and if it is a duty to exercise much care and diligence in distinguishing between inspired books and such as are spurious, it cannot be less incumbent to ascertain first whether any part of God’s revealed will has been handed down by tradition only, and next to learn accurately what those things are which have been thus communicated. And as there are apocryphal books which claim a place in the Canon, so doubtless there would be apocryphal traditions, if any truths had been conveyed to the church through this channel. But if there be no satisfactory evidence of any such revelation having come down to us, nor any possibility of ascertaining what proceeded from the apostles, and what from the fancy and superstition of men, then we are right in refusing the high claims of tradition, and adhering inflexibly to the written word, “which is able,” through faith, “to make us wise unto salvation.”
This doctrine of traditions is most convenient and favourable to the church of Rome in all her controversies with Protestants and others; for whatever she may assert as an article of faith, or teach as a part of Christian duty, although there be no vestige of it in the word of God, may readily be established by tradition. For as the church alone has the keeping of this body of oral law, she only is the proper judge of 303what it contains, and indeed can make it to suit herself. If we should concede to the Romanists what they claim on this point, the controversy with them might well be brought to an end, and all we should have to do, would be to yield implicit faith to whatever they might please to teach us. And even if we should be required to believe and practise, in direct opposition to the plain declarations of holy Scripture, yet, as the true interpretation of Scripture on this plan is only in the hands of the infallible head of the church, and is indeed understood by means of unwritten traditions, we must not trust to our own understanding in the most evident matters, nor even to our own senses, although several of them should concur in giving us notice of some fact. Now, before we give ourselves up to be led blindly in such a way as this, it behoves us diligently and impartially to inquire, whether God has required of us this implicit submission to men. We ought to be assured that their authority over our faith and conscience has a divine warrant for its exercise; and especially we should be satisfied, on sufficient grounds, that these unwritten traditions, on which the whole fabric rests, are truly the commands of God; for if they are not, we have the highest authority for rejecting them. And if their claim to a divine origin cannot be made out clearly, they cannot in reason bind us to obedience; for when God gives a law he promulgates it with sufficient clearness that all whom it concerns may know what is required of them.
To exhibit fairly the true point of controversy on this subject, it will be requisite to make several preliminary 304observations, that it may be clearly understood what we admit and what we deny.
1. In the first place then, it is readily admitted that a law revealed from heaven and communicated to us orally, with clear evidence of its origin, is as binding as if written ever so often. When God uttered the ten commandments on Mount Sinai, in the midst of thunderings and lightnings, it surely was as obligatory upon the hearers, as after he had written them on tables of stone. It is a dictate of common sense, that it is a matter of indifference how a divine revelation is communicated, provided it come to us properly authenticated.
2. Again, it is conceded, that for a long time there was no other method of transmitting the revelations received from heaven, from generation to generation, but by oral tradition, and such external memorials as aided in keeping up the remembrance of important transactions. As far as appears books were unknown, and letters not in use, until a considerable time after the flood. During the long period which preceded the time of Moses, all revelations must have been handed down by tradition. But while this concession is willingly made, it ought in connection to be remarked, that this mode was then used because no other existed; and that, in the early ages of the world, the longevity of the patriarchs rendered that a comparatively safe channel of communication which would now be most uncertain; and notwithstanding this advantage, the fact was, that in every instance, as far as we are informed, in which divine truth was committed to tradition, it was utterly lost, or soon became so corrupted by foreign mixtures, 305that it was impossible to ascertain what part of the mass contained a revelation from God. It is therefore the plausible opinion of some, that writing was revealed from heaven, for the very purpose of avoiding the evil which had been experienced, and that there might be a certain vehicle for all divine communications: and it is certain, that all that we know of the history of alphabetical writing, leads us to connect its origin with the commencement of written revelations.
It is, therefore, not an improbable supposition, that God taught letters to Moses for the express purpose of conveying, by this means, his laws to distant ages, without alteration; and it deserves to be well considered, that after the command was given to Moses, to write in a book the laws and statutes delivered to him, nothing was left to oral tradition, as has been shown in the former part of this work.
3. It will be granted also, that tradition, especially when connected with external memorials, is sufficient to transmit, through a long lapse of time, the knowledge of particular events, or of transactions of a very simple nature.
Thus it may be admitted, that if the gospels had not come down to us, we might by tradition be assured that Christ instituted the eucharist as a memorial of his death; for, from the time of its institution, it has, in every successive age, and in many countries, been celebrated to perpetuate the remembrance of that event. And it is not credible that such a tradition should be uniform at all times, and everywhere, and be connected with the same external rite, if it was not founded in fact. Besides, the thing handed down, in 306this instance, is so simple in its nature, that there was no room for mistake.
There is one fact, for the truth of which we depend entirely on tradition, so far as external testimony is concerned, and that is the truth which in this work we have been attempting to establish, that the books of the New Testament were written by the persons under whose names they have come down to us. This fact is incapable of being proved from the Scriptures, because we must first be assured that they contain the testimony of inspired men before we can prove anything by them. The point to be established here is, that the apostles wrote these books. If it were ever so often asserted in a book, that a certain person was its author, this would not be satisfactory evidence of its genuineness, because any impostor can write what falsehoods he pleases in a book, and may ascribe it to whom he will; as in fact many have written spurious works, and ascribed them to the apostles. We must, therefore, have the testimony of those who had the opportunity of judging of the fact, given either explicitly or implicitly.
In most cases, where a book is published under the name of some certain author, in the country in which he lived and was known, a general silent acquiescence in the fact, by the people of that age and country, with the consent of all that came after them, may be considered as satisfactory evidence of the genuineness of such book. But where much depends on the certainty of the fact in question, it is necessary to have positive testimony; and in order that it be satisfactory, it should be universal, and uncontradicted. When, therefore, a certain volume is expressly 307received as the work of certain individuals, by all who lived at or near the time when it was published, and all succeeding writings concur in ascribing it to the same persons, and not a solitary voice is raised in contradiction, the evidence of its genuineness seems to be as complete as the nature of the case admits. Just such is the evidence of the genuineness of the books of the New Testament; or, at least, of most of them. It is, however, the evidence of tradition; but of such a tradition as is abundantly sufficient to establish a fact of this sort. The thing attested is most simple in its nature, and not liable to be misunderstood. This necessity of tradition to establish the authenticity of the books of the New Testament, has been made a great handle of by the Romanists, in the defence of their favourite doctrine. They pretend that the point which we have here conceded, is all that is necessary to establish their whole system on the firmest foundation. They argue, that if we must receive the Scriptures themselves by tradition, much more other things. Indeed, they ascribe all the authority which the Scriptures possess to the testimony of the church, without which they assert that they would deserve no more credit than any other writings. But because a single fact, incapable of proof in any other way, must be received by tradition, it does not follow that numerous other matters which might easily have been recorded, must be learned in the same manner. Because a document requires oral testimony to establish its authenticity, it is not therefore necessary to prove the truth of the matters contained in that record by the same means.308
The very purpose of written records is to prevent the necessity of trusting to the uncertainty of tradition; and as to the allegation that the Scriptures owe their authority to the church, it amounts to no more than this, which we freely admit, that it is by the testimony of the early Fathers that we are assured that these writings are the productions of the apostles, and it is true that most of those witnesses who have given testimony were members of the Catholic church. But our confidence in their testimony on this point, is not because they were members of the church, but because they lived in times and circumstances favourable to an accurate knowledge of the fact which they report. And accordingly we admit the testimony of those who were out of the church; yea, of its bitterest enemies to the same fact, and on some accounts judge it to be the most unexceptionable. While we weigh this evidence it would be absurd to make its validity depend on the witnesses being members of the church; for that would be to determine that the church was divine and infallible, before we had ascertained that the Scriptures were the word of God. Surely, if on examination it had turned out that the Scriptures were not inspired, the authority of the Christian church would have been worth nothing, and therefore previously to the decision on this point we cannot defer anything to the authority of the church. The truth is, that the witnesses being of the church is, in this inquiry, merely an incidental circumstance. A sufficient number of competent and credible witnesses, not of the church, would establish the fact just as well as those who have given testimony, and, as was before observed, 309such testimony on the score of freedom from all partiality has the advantage.
The testimony of Jews and heathen has, on this account, been demanded by infidels, and has been sought for with avidity by the defenders of Christianity, and in the view of all considerate men is of great weight. But it is not just to ascribe the authority of these books to the church, because the greater number of the witnesses of their apostolical origin were members of the church. The law enacted by the supreme legislature of the state does not owe its authority to the men who attest its genuineness. It is true, it would not be known certainly to be a law without the attestation, but it would be absurd to ascribe the authority of the law to the persons whose testimony proved that it was really a law of the state. The cases are exactly parallel. The Scriptures cannot owe their authority to the church, for without them the church can have no authority, and although she may, and does give ample testimony in favour of their divine origin, this confers no authority on them, it only proves to us that they have authority which is derived from the Spirit of God, by whom they were indited. It is truly wonderful how this plain case has been perplexed and darkened by the artifice and sophistry of the writers of the church of Rome.
But if it be insisted, that if we admit tradition as sufficient evidence of a fact in one case, we ought to do so in every other where the tradition is as clear, we answer, that to this we have no objection, provided this species of proof be as necessary and as clear in the one case as the other. Let any other fact be shown to be as fully attested as the genuineness 310of the books of the New Testament, and to need this kind of proof as much, and we will not hesitate to receive it as true, whatever may be the consequence. But the very fact which we have been considering, seems to raise a strong presumption against the necessity of depending on tradition for anything else. Why were these books written? Was it not to convey to us, and to all future ages, the revelations of God to man? Because it is necessary to authenticate by testimony this record, must we depend on the same testimony for information on the points of which the record treats? Surely not. For the proof of these we have nothing to do but refer to the document itself; otherwise the possession of written records would be useless. If, indeed, a doubt should arise about the meaning of something in the record, it would not be unreasonable to inquire how it had been understood and practised on by those who received it at first; but if we should find a society acting in direct opposition to a written charter on which their existence depended, and pretending to prove that they were right by appealing from the written documents to vague traditions, all sensible men not interested would judge that the case was a very suspicious one.
4. We are, moreover, ready to acknowledge that the gospel was at first, for several years, communicated orally by the apostles and their assistants. The churches when first planted had no written gospels; they received the same truths now contained in the gospels and epistles, by the preaching of the apostles and others; and, doubtless, were as well instructed as those churches which have had possession of the 311whole inspired volume. And what they had thus received without book they could communicate to others, and thus, if the gospels and epistles had never been written, the Christian religion might have been transmitted from generation to generation. Then it may be asked, why the writing of these books should hinder the transmission of many things, which might not be contained in them, to future generations? for it cannot be doubted that many things were said and done by Christ which were not recorded in the gospels; and there is reason to think that the apostles were much fuller in their sermons than in their writings; and that they established many rules for the good order and government of the church, of which we have in their epistles either no account or only brief hints; which though they might be readily understood by those who had received their verbal instructions, are insufficient without tradition to teach us what rules and institutions were established in the churches by apostolical authority. Now, if these were transmitted by tradition to the next generation, and by them to the following, and so on in an uninterrupted series until the present time, are we not as much bound to receive such traditions, and be governed by them as by the written word?
I have now presented the argument in favour of traditions in the strongest light in which I am able to place it; and it would be uncandid not to admit, that it wears at first sight a face of plausibility: and if the whole case as here stated, could be made out with satisfactory evidence, I think we should be constrained to receive, to some extent, this oral law of the Romish church. But before any man can reasonably 312be required to rest his faith on tradition, he has a right to be satisfied on several important points; as, whether it was the purpose of God to permit any part of the revelation intended for the use of the church, in all future ages, to be handed down by tradition. For, as he directed everything in the law given at Mount Sinai, intended to regulate the faith and practice of the Israelites, to be committed to writ ing by Moses, it is noways improbable that the same plan was pursued, in regard to the writings of the New Covenant; especially, when it is considered how much superior written communications are to verbal, as it respects accuracy. When a channel for conveying the truth had been provided, calculated to preserve all communications from corruption, and when it is acknowledged, that this was used for a part of the matter to be transmitted, how can it be accounted for, that another part should be committed to the uncertainty of oral tradition? Why not commit the whole to writing?
But it is incumbent on the advocates of tradition to show, by undoubted proofs, that what they say has come down by tradition was really received from the mouth of Christ, or from the teaching of his apostles. As they wish to claim for this rule an authority fully equal to that which is given to the Scriptures, they ought to be able to produce the very words in which these instructions were given. But this they do not pretend to do. It may be said, indeed, that words and sentences, in their just order and connection, cannot be conveyed by tradition, and therefore this demand is unreasonable. I answer, that this allegation is most true, but instead of making in 313favour of traditions, it is a strong argument to prove, that nothing thus received can be of equal certainty and authority with the written word. When an article of faith is proposed, which is contained in the Scriptures, we can turn to the sacred text and read the words of Christ and his apostles, and may be assured that they express the truth contained in said article. But if an article of faith be asserted to have come down by tradition, we have no opportunity of knowing the words in which it was expressed: for, while it is pretended that the doctrine or instruction has reached us, the words have been lost; for what advocate of tradition is able, in any single case, to furnish us with the words of any divine revelation, which is not contained in the sacred Scriptures?
But it is essential to the credit of traditions, that it be proved clearly, that those articles of religion, or institutions of worship, said to be received from this source, have indeed been handed down, without alteration or corruption, from Christ and his apostles. It is not sufficient that they have been long received, and have now the sanction of the belief and practice of the whole Catholic church. It ought to be shown, that they have always, from the very days of the apostles, been received with universal consent. We know that the church has undergone many vicissitudes; that she has sometimes been almost extirpated by the sword of persecution; has been overrun with dangerous errors; has been overwhelmed with the darkness of Gothic ignorance; and we believe, has greatly apostatized from purity of doctrine and worship; and this accords with the prophecy of Paul, who clearly intimates that a time would come, 314when there should be a falling away. Now it may have happened, that during this long period of adversity, heresy, darkness, and corruption, many things may have crept in, and may have obtained an extensive and firm footing, which were totally unknown in the days of the apostles, or in the primitive church; and that this has in fact occurred, we are not left to conjecture. It is a matter of historical record, which cannot be disputed, and which is not denied even by the Romanists themselves. Who that is not insane with prejudice, could persuade himself that all the opinions, rites and ceremonies, which now exist in the Romish church, were prevalent in the times of the apostles, and were received from them by tradition?
Besides, there is a multitude of other things received and held to be important by the church of Rome, of which there is no vestige in the Scriptures, and concerning which there is no early tradition. Many rules and ceremonies which have been long in use, can be traced to their commencement at a period much later than that of the apostles. Now amidst such a mass of traditions, how can it be ascertained which have come down from Christ and his apostles? Perhaps we shall be told, that the infallible head of the church can determine with certainty what we ought to believe and practise; but if there be on earth an infallible judge, we have no need of traditions. All that is necessary is, for this person to establish his claim to infallibility, and then all will be as much bound to receive his decisions, as if they were expressly written in the holy Scriptures. On this ground the controversy between the Romanists and Protestants first commenced. The defenders of 315the old system appealed to the authority of the Pope, and the infallibility of the church, but as it was impossible to sustain themselves by Scripture on these points, they found it very convenient to have recourse to the doctrine of unwritten traditions, which they pretended had been handed down from Christ and his apostles. Grant them this, and there is no doctrine, however absurd, which may not be supported. Grant them this, and it will be in vain to appeal any more to the sacred Scriptures as a standard of truth; for this traditionary law not only inculcates what is not found in the Scriptures, but teaches the only true interpretation of Scripture. Traditions may, therefore, be considered as the bulwark of the Romish church. Concede to them the ground which they assume, and the whole body of their ceremonial laws and unscriptural practices is safe. For as they can feign what traditions they please, having the keeping of them entirely in their own hands, they are prepared to defend every part of their system: but take this away from them, and their defence is gone. Bring them to the ground of clear scriptural testimony, and they are weak; for it is manifest that the Bible knows nothing of their monstrous accumulation of superstitious rites.
The council of Trent, therefore, early in their sessions, made a decree on this subject, in which, after recognizing the Scriptures, they add: “The Holy Synod receives and venerates traditions relating both to faith and manners, as proceeding from the mouth of Christ himself, or as dictated by the Holy Spirit, and preserved in an uninterrupted succession in the Catholic church, with equal affection and reverence, 316as the written Scriptures!” This was the first decree of the fourth session of this famous Council.
Before leaving this subject, it will be proper to consider some of the other arguments, which the Romanists bring forward in support of their beloved traditions.
And the first is imposing, as it is derived from the express declarations of Scripture, in which we are exhorted to obey traditions. “Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us.”84842 Thess. iii. 6, 7, 11 15. Here Paul makes express mention of tradition. And in the preceding chapter, “Therefore brethren stand fast and hold the traditions which ye have been taught whether by word, or our epistle.” Now all that is necessary to refute the argument derived from these and such like passages, where the word traditions is used, is to observe, that Paul employs this word in a very extensive sense, to signify whatever doctrines or institutions he had delivered to the churches, whether by his preaching or writing. And in the verse first cited, he evidently refers to what he had said to them in his first epistle, for the words following are, “For yourselves know how ye ought to follow us; for we behaved not ourselves disorderly among you; neither did we eat any man’s bread for nought, &c.” Now, this tradition which he commanded the Thessalonians to obey, was contained in the former epistle addressed to them, where it is said, “And that ye study to be quiet, and to do your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we 317commanded you.” 1 Thess. iv. 11. And in the quotation from the second chapter, it is clear, that by traditions, the apostle did not mean merely oral communications, for he explains himself, by saying, “whether by word or epistle.” It is not denied, that Paul delivered many things orally to the churches, as has been already acknowledged. All the instructions given to the churches first planted, were oral, for as yet no gospels nor epistles were written; but the true point in dispute is, whether any article of faith, or any important institution, thus originally communicated, was omitted, when the books of the New Testament were written by divine inspiration. Whether, while a part of the revelation of God, for the use of his church, was committed to writing, another important part was left to be handed down by tradition. That the word tradition, as used by Paul, makes nothing in favour of the doctrine of the Romish church, is evident, because by this word he commonly means such things as were distinctly recorded in the Scriptures. Thus, in his first epistle to the Corinthians, he says, “For I delivered unto you first of all,” where the word for transmitting by tradition, is used; but what were those things which he had by tradition communicated to them? He informs us in the next words, “How that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day, according to the Scriptures.” 1 Cor. xv. 3, 4.
It is manifest, therefore, that the argument derived from the exhortation of Paul to obey tradition, is but a shadow, and vanishes upon the slightest touch of fair examination.318
2. Their next and principal argument is derived from the frequent declarations of the early Fathers in favour of tradition. Cyprian refers those who might be in doubt respecting any doctrine, to the holy tradition received from Christ and his apostles; and Irenæus, as cited by Eusebius, says, “that those things which he heard Polycarp relate concerning Christ, his virtues and his doctrines, which he had learned from converse with the apostles, he had inscribed on his heart, and not on paper.” But after a few sentences he informs us “that all which he had heard from them was in accordance with the Scriptures, (παντα συμφωνα ταις γραφαις.”) This sentence of Irenæus is of great importance, for it teaches us how the Fathers understood this subject. They received such traditions as came down through pious men from the apostles, but they compared them with the Scriptures; even then the Scriptures were the standard by which all traditions must be judged. Irenseus insinuates, plainly enough, that if what he had heard from Polycarp, had not been in accordance with the Scriptures he would not have considered it as deserving attention.
But the same Irenæus and Tertullian have spoken in still stronger terms in favour of tradition in their controversies with heretics. The former, in the third chapter of the third book of his work on Heresies, says, “The tradition of the apostles is manifest in the whole world. In the church it is exposed to the view of all who are willing to know the truth.” And in the fourth chapter, “It is not necessary to seek the truth from others which can easily be acquired from the church, since the blessed apostles have deposited 319in her, most fully, all those truths which are needful, so that every one who will may drink of the water of life. This is the true door of life, and all others are thieves and robbers; them we should avoid; but those things which appertain to the church we should delight in with great diligence, and should lay hold of the tradition of truth. For what if the apostles had left us no writings, ought we not to follow the order of traditions, which they to whom the churches were committed have delivered to us? To which institution many barbarous nations have submitted, having neither letters nor ink, but having the tradition of the apostles inscribed on their hearts, which also they follow.”
Tertullian, in his work concerning “Prescriptions,” says, “If Christ commissioned certain persons to preach his gospel, then certainly none should be received as preachers except those appointed to office by him. And as they preached what Christ revealed unto them, what they taught can only be known by applying to the churches which the apostles planted, by preaching to them, whether viva voce, or by their epistles. Therefore, all doctrine which agrees with that held by the apostolical churches is to be considered as true and held fast, because the churches received it from the apostles, the apostles from Christ, and Christ from God; but all other doctrine which is repugnant to that received by the churches should be rejected as false, as being repugnant to that truth taught by the apostles, by Christ, and by God.”
These declarations from such men in favour of tradition seem, at first view, to be altogether favourable to the doctrine of the church of Rome; but we despair 320not of being able to convince the candid reader, that when the occasion on which these things were said, and the character and opinions of the persons against whom these Fathers wrote are considered, their testimony instead of making against the sufficiency of the Scriptures will be found corroborative of the opinions which we maintain. They do not appeal to tradition, let it be observed, for confirmation of articles of faith not contained in the Scriptures; but the doctrines which they are defending are among the most fundamental contained in the New Testament. They are precisely the doctrines which are comprehended in the Apostles’ Creed. Now, to appeal to tradition for the confirmation of such doctrines as these, never can be of any force to prove that other doctrines not contained in the Scriptures may be established by tradition. But it may be asked, if those doctrines concerning which they disputed are plainly inculcated in the New Testament, why have recourse to tradition? Why not appeal at once to the Scriptures? To which I would answer, that Irenæus does little else in the third, fourth, and fifth books of his work than confirm the truth by a copious citation of Scripture.
Nothing can be more manifest, therefore, than that the matters in dispute were not such as could only be proved by tradition, but they were such truths as lie at the very foundation of the Christian religion, and to record which, the gospels and epistles were written. But still the question returns, why did these Fathers appeal for proof to tradition, when they had testimony so full and decisive from the Scriptures? The answer to this question will show us, in the 321clearest manner, that the views of Irenæus and Tertullian, relative to the Scriptures and to traditions, were such as are now held by Protestants, and that the heretics whom they opposed, occupied nearly the same ground as the Romanists now do, in this controversy. These heretics either rejected the Scriptures as being an insufficient rule, and asserted that they were not competent for the decision of such matters; or they so corrupted them, that it was useless to appeal to them for proof; for testimonies derived from the genuine Scriptures they would not admit. This is not conjecture; for Irenæus has explicitly stated the case. “When,” says he, “they are confuted from the Scriptures themselves, they allege that they are not correct, or not of authority, and assert that they speak so variously, that the truth cannot be established by them without tradition; for, say they, it was handed down, not by letters, but viva voce.” And Tertullian says, “This heresy does not receive some parts of the Scriptures; and what they do receive is so corrupted by additions, or detractions, to suit their own doctrine, that they cannot be said to receive the Scriptures entire, &c.” Again: “They pretend that the apostles did not wish to reveal all things plainly, for while they made known certain truths to all, there were others which they communicated secretly, and to a few persons, which they say the apostle Paul meant by the depositum.”
From these quotations, the reason why these Fathers had recourse to traditions is most manifest. It was the only ground on which these heretics could be met; for they denied, (as the Romanists now do,) that the Scriptures were a certain and sufficient 322standard of truth. They said that their meaning could not be ascertained without tradition; that they were defective; and also, that there were some parts which they did not acknowledge; and they held, moreover, that some things were never committed to writing, but designedly handed down by tradition. We did not, indeed, expect to find the exact doctrine of the Romanists respecting the Scriptures and tradition, at so early a period of the church: but unfortunately for their cause, the persons who are found agreeing with them are gross heretics.
It is now easy to see why the appeal was made by the Fathers to universal tradition; and they show, that in their day tradition and Scripture were harmonious; and that if the apostles had written nothing, the consent of all the churches would be sufficient to prove, that the doctrines which they defended were received from the apostles. Instead, therefore, of using tradition, as the Romanists do, to prove some doctrine not contained in the Scripture, they used it merely to confirm the truths which are manifestly contained in the New Testament. They were at no loss for Scripture testimonies to establish these truths, but they were disputing with men who did not admit the authority of the Scriptures to be decisive, and therefore they appeal to universal tradition in support of them. It is said, indeed, by Irenæus, that many barbarous nations had received the faith, among whom letters and writing were unknown. They must, therefore, it is concluded, have received it from tradition. Very good. Just as heathen tribes now receive, from those missionaries who preach the gospel to them, a short summary of the most important doctrines 323of the New Testament. The truths which these barbarous nations received, were not different from those contained in the sacred Scriptures, but the very same, taught in a short comprehensive creed. In fact, we have here the true origin of that symbol of doctrine, commonly called the Apostles’ Creed, which was a summary of Christianity, used in very early times, in the instruction of those who were not able to read the New Testament, or who had, as yet, no access to it. There are extant a number of these creeds, which at first were very short; but were afterwards increased, as new heresies arose. Bishop Usher found several of these in very ancient manuscripts, all of which are substantially the same as the creed called ‘the Apostles’ Creed.’ That Irenæus actually referred, in the passage alluded to, to these elementary doctrines, he explicitly informs us; for, immediately after mentioning these barbarous nations, who were destitute of “letters and ink,” he adds, “Believing in one God, the maker of heaven and earth, and all things which are therein; and in Jesus Christ the Son of God, who for his exceeding great love to his creatures, submitted to be born of a virgin, by himself uniting man to God; and having suffered under Pontius Pilate, and having risen again, was received into heaven; about to come again in glory; the Saviour of those who are saved, and the judge of those who are judged; and will send into eternal fire, the perverters of the truth, and the despisers of his Father, and of his coming; which barbarians, if any one should announce to them the doctrines invented by heretics, stopping their ears, they would fly far away from them. Thus, the ancient apostolical tradition 324does not sanction those monstrous opinions inculcated by heretics.”
In the second chapter of the first book of the same work, Irenaeus describes the apostolical doctrine, thus: “The church, planted by the apostles and their disciples throughout the whole world, even to the ends of the earth, receives the same faith; which is, in one God Almighty, the Father, who made heaven and earth, the sea, and all things which are therein; in one Jesus Christ, the Son of God, incarnate for our salvation; and in the Holy Spirit, who by the prophets, predicted the good will of God; his advent; his generation of a virgin; his passion, and resurrection from the dead; and the ascension in the flesh of our beloved Lord Christ Jesus; and his coming again from heaven, in the glory of his Father, as our Lord Jesus Christ; our God, Saviour, and King; before whom, according to the good pleasure of the Father invisible, every knee shall bow, of things in heaven and things in earth, and things under the earth, and every tongue shall confess the justice of his judgments towards all, when he will send wicked spirits, fallen and apostate angels, and blaspheming men, into eternal fire; but the just and upright who have kept his precepts, and persevered in his love, some indeed from the beginning, and others as having received the gift of repentance, he will surround with eternal glory. This faith, the church spread over the whole world, diligently keeps, as if she inhabited one house, and believes in it, as if possessing but one soul and one heart; and in accordance with the same, she teaches and preaches, as with one mouth. Although the languages which are in the world are different, yet there 325is one and the same tradition. Neither do the churches which are founded in Germany believe differently from those in Italy, nor from those which are in Egypt, or in Libya, or in the middle of the world. But as the sun is one and the same through the whole world, so the light and preaching of the truth, everywhere shines, and illuminates all men, who are willing to come to the knowledge of the truth,” &c.
This then is the apostolical tradition, of which these Fathers speak in such high terms: not any secret doctrine, never committed to writing; not any articles of faith, or rites of worship, of which no vestige can be found in the Bible; but the plain, prominent, fundamental doctrines of the Christian religion: the very doctrines contained in the Apostles’ Creed. That the preaching of the gospel preceded the circulation of the Scriptures we admit, but this preaching we insist and have proved, contained nothing different from that which is written in the gospels and epistles.
Tertullian speaks to the same purpose, and furnishes us with another summary of the common faith of primitive Christians; “The rule of faith,” says he, “is that by which it is believed, that there is no more than one God, and no other beside the Creator of the world, who produced all things out of nothing, by his Word, first of all sent forth, which Word is called his Son; was seen under different forms by the patriarchs; was always heard by the prophets; and finally, by the Spirit and power of God, being conceived by the Virgin Mary, became flesh in her womb. Jesus Christ having thus become man, published a new law, and a new promise of the kingdom of heaven; was 326crucified; rose again the third day; was caught up into heaven; sat down on the right hand of God the Father; sent, as his substitute, the power of the Holy Spirit, to influence those who believe; will come again in glory to take his saints to the fruition of eternal life and of the celestial promises, and to adjudge the profane to eternal fire; at which time, there will be a resuscitation of both parts, and the flesh will be restored. This rule of faith was instituted by Christ, and is questioned by none but heretics, and such as teach those things which make heretics.”8585Tertull. De Præscriptionibus.
These are the apostolical traditions which were universally received; the very plainest and most fundamental doctrines of the Christian religion, which are written amply in every gospel, and recognized fully in every epistle. Thus far then, it does not appear that anything was left to unwritten tradition, to be communicated to future ages; for those very truths which were at first delivered orally by the apostles, were afterwards recorded by inspiration; and when the preachers of the gospel instructed the ignorant, who were unacquainted with letters, they taught them, precisely, but in a summary way, what is written in the New Testament.
3. Another argument, depended on by the advocates of tradition, is derived from the fact, that there are some doctrines, not expressly mentioned in Scripture, which are universally inculcated by the Fathers, which all true Christians have received as articles of faith, in all succeeding ages, and which are not denied even by Protestants themselves. To this class belong the doctrine of the Trinity; the doctrine of the Son 327being of the same substance as the Father; the deity of the Holy Spirit; his proceeding from the Father and the Son: the two natures in Christ constituting one person; the baptism of infants; the religious observance of the Lord’s day, &c. Now, in regard to these articles of religion, we observe, that although they are not contained in Scripture, in so many words, they may be derived from Scripture by legitimate inference; and conclusions fairly deduced from the declarations of the word of God, are as truly parts of divine revelation, as if they were expressly taught in the sacred volume. All the articles mentioned above, are capable of satisfactory proof from Scripture; and if we did not find them taught there, we should feel under no obligation to receive them. We do not deny, however, that the universal consent, and uniform practice of the primitive church, ought to have great weight in confirming our faith in important doctrines, and in satisfying us that certain things not explicitly mentioned in Scripture were practised by the apostles. Although the doctrine of the Trinity, and the essential deity of the Son and Holy Spirit, are doctrines very plainly taught in the New Testament, yet in a matter of such vast importance, it cannot but afford satisfaction to every sincere inquirer, to find that these doctrines were universally believed by the Fathers, to be taught in the writings of the apostles.
And although there are principles and facts recorded in the New Testament, from which it can be fairly concluded, that the first day of the week was set apart for public worship, and that the infants of believers were, from the beginning, baptized, and thus connected with the visible church; yet, as these institutions 328are not so expressly included in Scripture, as to remove all uncertainty, the fact of their universal observance, in the primitive church, has, deservedly, great influence in convincing us, that our reasonings and inferences from Scriptural principles are correct. But why should we be required to receive these things merely on the authority of tradition, when the Fathers themselves appealed for their truth to the infallible rule contained in the New Testament? Thus, on the subject of infant baptism, which the Romanists pretend is derived solely from tradition, we find the Fathers appealing not only to universal practice and apostolical tradition, but frequently to the words of Scripture, in which they believed that the practice was implicitly authorized. Irenæus, Origen, Augustine, Cyprian, Ambrose, and Chrysostom, do all appeal to Scripture, when treating this subject, although they do, indeed, lay great stress on the derivation of this practice from the apostles by undoubted tradition. It is not denied, however, that after some time an undue deference was paid to traditions. It will be shown hereafter, that many were misled from the simplicity of the gospel by this very means. By yielding too ready an assent to traditions, they were led to adopt false opinions, some of which were directly repugnant to the written word. It can have no weight with us, therefore, to adduce such a writer as Epiphanius extolling tradition; for it can be proved, that from this source he imbibed many foolish notions, and fabulous stories, which the more impartial among the Romanists are as far from receiving as we are. Nor, do we feel bound, on this subject, to adopt all the opinions anywhere found in the writings of Origen, 329Basil, Augustine, &c.; for we are persuaded, that this was one of the errors of antiquity, and that it was prolific of numerous evils, by which the church of God became greatly corrupted in after times. But it answers no purpose to the Romish church to plead these authorities; for they themselves do not receive as articles of faith or parts of divine worship, all that these Fathers derived from tradition. The principle of Protestants ever has been, that the Scriptures contain all things necessary to guide the faith and practice of believers; and they feel under no obligations to receive any article of religion, which cannot be proved to be contained in the sacred volume. If, in the explanation of Scripture, light can be derived from tradition, or the universal opinion or practice of the primitive church, they are very willing to avail themselves of it, as they are to derive aid from any other quarter: but since they are convinced that the Fathers were fallible men, and actually fell into many mistakes, it would be folly to build their faith on their opinions, much more to adopt their errors, knowing them to be such. “The Bible is the Religion of Protestants.”
The fact is, that the Fathers generally depended on Scripture for the proof of their doctrines; and called in the aid of tradition, only to confirm the doctrines which they derived from the written word. And here it is important to remark, that tradition, in the earlier and purer times of the church, was a very different thing from what it is now. Men who lived within one or two hundred years of the apostles, had an opportunity of ascertaining their opinions and practices from tradition, with a degree of certainty 330which is utterly unattainable after the lapse of ages of error and darkness. If it should be agreed, to receive as apostolical everything which the early Fathers professed to have received by tradition from the apostles, yet it would be most unreasonable to be required to admit as divine, the monstrous mass of traditions held by the Romish church, which has been accumulating for ages.
But it is capable of the clearest proof, that great uncertainty attended all matters received by tradition, which were not contained in Scripture, even in those times that were nearest to the days of the apostles. This fact is manifest, in the case of Papias, who was contemporary with the last of the apostles; and of Clement of Alexandria, who lived in the second century. If then tradition was so uncertain, at its very source, who can place any confidence in this channel of communication, after it has been increasing in impurity for seventeen hundred years? If the stream had even been pure in its commencement, it would, by this time, have become so turbid, and so poisoned, that no dependence could be placed in the information conveyed by it. But where certain things are said to have been received by tradition from the apostle John, at second hand, it was deemed important to verify them, by a comparison with the Scriptures, as we have already seen. How unreasonable then is the demand, that we should now receive all traditions, which have come down to us, without any test of their genuineness, or any comparison of them with the oracles of God!
Here also it is necessary to observe that there is a wide distinction to be made between articles of faith 331and institutions of worship which are obligatory on all, and such modes of worship as were adopted under the general rule of “doing all things decently and in order,” or from notions of expediency, with a view of conciliating those that were without. It may be proved, indeed, from the writings of the Fathers that many things of this kind existed, which they never thought of placing on a level with the faith received from the apostles. And it may be here remarked, that it was one of the first and greatest mistakes into which the church fell, after inspiration ceased, to make too free a use of this doctrine of expediency. The abuses which have crept in under this specious disguise were not foreseen. The Fathers saw no harm in an indifferent ceremony to which, perhaps, their new converts were attached from long custom. By adopting things of this kind, the church which was at first simple and unincumbered with rites, became strangely metamorphosed; and in place of her simple robe of white, assumed a gorgeous dress tricked off with gaudy ornaments and various colours. This practice of inventing new ceremonies went on increasing until, in process of time, the burdensome ritual of the Levitical law was not comparable to the liturgy of the Christian church. Who that now attends a Romish chapel on some high day, would suppose that the service performed was connected with the religion of the New Testament?
It is of no consequence, therefore, to adduce testimonies of the Fathers of the second, third, and fourth ages of the Christian church, to show that such ceremonies were then in use in some particular part of the church; or even in the church universal. All know 332by what means these things were received and obtained prevalence. But let it be kept in memory that the Fathers do not assert that these usages were derived from the apostles; nor do they pretend that they were necessary; and accordingly we find that in different countries they were not the same.
4. I come now to consider the last argument for unwritten traditions which I have been able to discover. It is this, that without the aid of tradition the Scriptures will be of no real benefit to us, because it is only by this means that we can arrive at their true meaning. And it is alleged that the Fathers in all disputes with heretics, when they referred to Scripture, still appealed to universal tradition for a true exposition of the meaning of the passages adduced.
In returning an answer to this argument I would observe, that should we even grant all that is contended for, it would not be a concession of the main point in controversy. The claim of the Romanists, so unblushingly advanced in the decree of Trent already cited is, “That traditions relating both to faith and manners, are to be received with equal affection and reverence as the canonical Scriptures.” And lest we should be at any loss to know what articles of faith are pretended to be received by tradition alone, Peter a Soto, one of the great defenders of the decrees of the Council of Trent, and a member of that Council, explicitly declares, “That the rule is infallible and universal; that whatever things the Romish church believes and holds, which are not contained in the Scriptures, are to be considered as derived from the apostles; provided the observances 333cannot be traced to any certain origin or author.” Everything in use in this church, of the commencement of which we are ignorant, must be ascribed to the apostles without doubt, and without further proof! And then he descends to particular doctrines and rites which, according to this sweeping rule, we must receive as handed down by tradition from the apostles. Among these are “the oblation of the sacrifice of the altar, unction with chrism or the holy oil, invocation of saints, the merit of good works, the primacy of the Roman pontiff, the consecration of the water in baptism, the sacrament of confirmation, of orders, of matrimony, prayers for the dead, extreme unction, auricular confession, and satisfaction,” &c. But beside these there are innumerable other things which are held sacred by the Romish church which cannot be proved from Scripture, such as the mutilation of the Lord’s Supper, the celibacy of the clergy, the distinction of meats, purgatory, pilgrimages, indulgences, the worship of images and relics, the canonization of saints, &c. Now, she cannot pretend that all these were received from the apostles, for some of them are in direct repugnance to the plain declarations of Scripture; and the occasion of the introduction of some of them is matter of history, as is acknowledged by the Romanists themselves. And surely it is not a very convincing argument of the apostolical origin of doctrines or ceremonies, that we do not know when they took their rise.
But the argument now under consideration relinquishes this ground, and goes back to the Scriptures as the foundation of faith, but insists that the true interpretation 334of Scripture can only be known by tradition. On which we remark:
That many things in Scripture are so clear that they stand in need of no interpretation. They are already as plain as any exposition can make them. Who wants tradition to teach him that Christ is the Son of God; was born of the virgin Mary; was crucified under Pontius Pilate, rose again the third day, and ascended to heaven, whence he will come again to judge the world? If we cannot understand the plain declarations of Scripture, neither could we understand an exposition. If we cannot know what the apostles and evangelists mean in their plainest declarations when we have their very words before us, how shall we know what is the meaning of the vague language of tradition?
There are many parts of the New Testament of which tradition has handed down no interpretation. If we wish to know their meaning, it is in vain that we apply to the Fathers for instruction. They are silent. They have not commented on these books and passages. To which of the Fathers shall I go for an exposition of the book of Revelation? Or will the Pope himself, aided by all his cardinals, or by an œcumenical council, undertake to give us the true interpretation of this prophecy? It cannot be true that Scripture can be interpreted only by tradition; unless we agree to give up a large part of the New Testament as wholly incapable of being understood.
We cannot build our faith on the interpretation of the Fathers, in all cases, because they often fall into palpable mistakes, which is not denied by the Romanists themselves; and again, they differ among themselves. 335How then can it be known what that interpretation is, which was received from the apostles? Must I follow Justin, or Irenæus, or Clement of Alexandria? or must I believe in all the allegorical interpretations contained in the Homilies of Origen, according to which, the plainest passages are made to mean something perfectly foreign from the literal sense? If the tradition which brings down this interpretation, is not found in the writings of the Fathers, where is it? And how has it come down? Surely that which was never mentioned nor recorded by the ancient church, ought not to be received as an apostolical tradition; for, as the great Chillingworth says, “A silent tradition is like a silent thunder,” a thing inconceivable. But we shall be told, that the church has preserved this deposit, and can testify that it was derived from the apostles. What church? And where is her testimony? And how do we know that among such a mass of traditions, some have not crept in, which originated in other sources than the teaching of Christ and his apostles? Who kept these traditions securely when the church was overrun with Gothic ignorance and barbarism? Who kept this treasure unadulterated, when Arianism was predominant? If there be such an oral law, containing an exposition of Scripture, how has it happened that there have existed such dissensions about doctrine in the Romish church itself? And, as it is acknowledged, that many usages of the church have had their origin, long since the apostles’ days, what authority is there for these innovations? If the authority of the church was sufficient to establish these, it could as easily establish all the rest, and there is no need of apostolical 336tradition: but if there is a distinction to be made between observances derived from the apostles, and such as have been invented by men, how can we draw the line between them?
An implicit believer in the infallibility of the Pope, would deem it sufficient to answer, that his holiness at Rome knows certainly what is apostolical, and what not; what is obligatory and what not. All we have to do, is to believe what he believes, or what he tells us to believe. Now, without disputing the pretensions of the bishop of Rome to such extraordinary knowledge, at present, I would ask, if we must go to an infallible judge to learn what are apostolical traditions, what use is there in traditions? Why does not this infallible teacher declare at once what is truth in all cases, without the trouble of searching into antiquity after traditions, which never can be found?
But if it be alleged that the traditions which ought to be received as the rule of our faith, are such as were universal, and concerning which there cannot be any doubt, I answer, that many such traditions may indeed be found, but what do they respect? Those very doctrines which are most plainly and frequently inculcated in Scripture, and of which we need no exposition; for, as was said before, they are expressed as perspicuously as any exposition can be. But it affords us satisfaction to find the church openly professing, from the beginning, those truths which we find recorded in Scripture. If it does not add confirmation to our faith in these points, it gives us pleasure to find such a harmony in the belief of true Christians.337
Finally, it is dangerous to rely upon traditions. Heretics in all ages sheltered themselves under this doctrine. Those with whom Tertullian contended, alleged that the apostles did not know everything necessary, as Christ declared he had many things to say, which they could not bear yet; or there were some things which they did not teach publicly, nor commit to writing, but communicated privately to a few chosen persons, and therefore they declined the authority of Scripture. The same is true of those against whom Irenæus wrote. They appealed from Scripture to tradition, and he answers them by showing that universal tradition was conformable to Scripture.
Eusebius informs us that Artemon, who asserted that Christ was a mere man, pretended that he had learnt, from tradition, that all the apostles were of his opinion.8686Liber v. c. 28. Thus also Clement of Alexandria says, “that Basilides gloried in having received his doctrine through a few hands from Peter; and Valentinus boasted of having been instructed by one who had been a disciple of Paul.”8787Strom. xiii. The Marcionites professed to have received their doctrines from Matthew. The Arians, as appears by an oration against them by Athanasius, appealed to tradition for the confirmation of their tenets. In fact, this doctrine of unwritten traditions has been justly compared, to Pandora’s box, which is calculated to fill the world with evils and heresies. But not only have heretics availed themselves of this corrupt fountain, but good men have been deceived by lending too credulous an ear to traditions.
Papias one of the hearers of John the apostle, was 338a great collector of traditions. He was inquisitive to know what each of the apostles had at any time said; and there was some chance at coming at the truth from oral tradition, by one who was a hearer of one of the apostles. But what valuable information did this good man obtain by all his inquiries, which is not in Scripture? Let Eusebius answer, “Papias adopted many paradoxical opinions, by giving heed to unwritten traditions, (παραδοσεως αγραφου) and received certain strange parables of our Saviour, mixed with fabulous things, among which was the error of the Chiliasts; by which many other excellent men were deceived, paying too much deference to antiquity and unwritten traditions. Even such men as Irenæus, Apollinarius, Tertullian, Victorinus, and Lactantius, were misled by these ancient traditions, so that they adopted an opinion for which there is no foundation in sacred Scripture, and not only so, but which is repugnant to the doctrine of Christ and his apostles.”8888The reference is to the Millennarian doctrine.
Clement of Alexandria, too, than whom no man of the ancient church was more celebrated, speaks of certain persons who had taken much pains to preserve the sayings of the apostles handed down by tradition, among whom he mentions a Hebrew who is supposed to be Papias; but when he comes to tell us what he had learned from these unwritten traditions which is not contained in Scripture, it amounts to this, “That there was a public doctrine and a secret doctrine; the one exoteric, and the other esoteric; that the former was committed to writing, and was in the hands of all; but the latter was communicated 339secretly to chosen disciples. And if we may judge of the secret doctrine handed down by tradition from some specimens of it which he had learned, we will not appreciate unwritten traditions very highly in comparison with the written word. Among these is the opinion that the Greek philosophy answered the same purpose as the law of Moses, and was a schoolmaster to bring those that professed it to Christ; that this philosophy as well as the law of Moses was able to justify men, and that there were many ways of obtaining life. From the same tradition he teaches that Christ’s ministry was finished in one year, which opinion Irenaeus ascribes to heretics, and declares it as a tradition from John that Christ, when he was crucified, was nearly fifty years of age. Clement relates it as a tradition, “That the apostles after their death, went and preached to the dead, who descended with the apostles into a place of water, and then came up alive,” and many other like things.8989Strom. lib. II.
There is much reason to believe that the corruption of the church, which commenced about this time, was owing to a disposition which began to be indulged of lending too credulous an ear to traditions, and to apocryphal writings.
But among the Fathers no one gave himself up so entirely to unwritten traditions and apocryphal fables as Epiphanius. His writings abound with things of this kind; but who would assert that we are bound to receive these stories as articles of faith? Even the Romish church with all her store of legends, will not receive as true and necessary all that is 340handed down by tradition from one and another of the Fathers.
From what has been said, therefore, the conclusion is clear that the Scriptures are complete without unwritten traditions; that no articles of faith, nor institutions of worship, concerning which the Scriptures are silent, have come down to us by tradition.; that we have uniform, universal tradition on those points which are plainly taught in Scripture; that many things pretended to have been received from the apostles by tradition cannot be traced to them, and that many other things made equally necessary by the Romish church, can be proved to have originated many hundred of years since the death of the apostles. It has been also shown that there is no certain method of distinguishing between what is apostolical, and what has been derived from other sources, unless we make the Scriptures our standard; that tradition cannot be our guide even in interpreting Scriptures; and finally, that tradition has been the common refuge of heretics, and has greatly misled good and orthodox men, by inducing them to adopt wild theories, fabulous stories, and paradoxical opinions, some of which are directly repugnant to Scripture.
The traditions of the Romish church stand on no higher ground than the traditions of the Scribes and Pharisees in the time of our Saviour; but he rejected these traditions as having no authority, and as making void the law of God. “Why do ye,” says Christ, “also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition? Thus have ye made the commandment of God of none effect by your tradition.” Matt. xv. 3-6 341“Howbeit, in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.” Mark vii. 7. The same questions and reproofs may with equal propriety be addressed to the Pope, and the doctors of the Romish church. But, say we, “To the law and to the testimony; if they speak not according to these, it is because there is no light in them.” Isaiah viii. 20.
Thus have we brought this work to a close, and it affords us pleasure to believe that most who read these pages will be convinced that the Bible is a complete rule, both of faith and practice. “The law of the Lord is perfect.” Psa. xix. What a treasure have we in the Old and New Testament! Here God speaks to us by his “lively oracles.” The way of life is delineated so distinctly, that the wayfaring man, though a fool, shall not err therein. We have, indeed, “a sure word of prophecy to which ye do well that ye take heed as to a light shining in a dark place until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts.” 2 Pet. 7-19. There is nothing lacking to him that is in possession of the Scriptures; for “all Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.” 2 Tim. iii. 16, 17.
Let us then be grateful to God, and give him unceasing thanks for this precious deposit which he has committed to his church, and which, by his Providence, he has preserved uninjured through all the vicissitudes through which she has passed. Let us praise God that in regard to us, that night of darkness is past in which there was a famine, not of bread, 342nor of water, but of the word of the Lord; when the light of this brilliant lamp was put out, or rather “put under a bushel,” and the feeble erring light of tradition was substituted in its place. Let us be glad and rejoice that we have lived to see the day when copies of the Bible are multiplied, and when many run to and fro to circulate them; and let us wait in assured hope for the day when “the knowledge of the Lord shall cover the earth as the waters cover the sea. Even so, come Lord Jesus. Amen.”343
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