Familiar Conversations on Romanism

Third Conversation

The Word of God and the Church

J. N. Darby.

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48 M. But you may take a false meaning out of them. Every kind of notion and religion is come out of scripture.

James. That I do not believe, because both you and I believe they are the truth of God, and therefore error cannot come out of them. That people, if they are not humble, and if they read scripture with their heads and not depending upon grace, may follow their own thoughts and wrest scripture to prove them — this may be; but they cannot get anything but perfect truth out of scripture, that you dare not deny. If they are proud, wise in their own conceits, they will reap the consequence of it, but grace will keep the humble soul. Besides, I may take a wrong meaning out of what your books or priest teach me. And, further, I do not despise at all the help of those whom God has sent and fitted to teach and help us: only they are not the rule of faith. They cannot, I see they cannot, have the authority God's word has; they are not inspired. I must prove all things, and hold fast that which is good. That is what the apostle tells us to do; 1 Cor. 10:15.

M. Why you are growing quite a little teacher yourself, James. What can a poor man like you know about it?

49 James. I know well I am not a learned man, M., but I have faith in what I find in scripture, and therefore am certain of the truth that is in it. Ought not I to believe what Paul says?

M. Of course; but how can you tell what he meant?

James. By what he says; and do you not believe that the grace of God will help a poor man as well as a learned one in what concerns his soul?

M. Well, I do not gainsay that.

James. And the blessed Lord who cared for the poor said, that the Father hid these things from the wise and prudent and revealed them to babes: "even so, Father, for so it seems good in thy sight." And Paul says, "If any man will be wise in this world, let him become a fool that he may be wise." And the Psalm says, "The entering in of thy word giveth light and understanding to the simple."

M. Where do you get all this scripture, James?

James. Why, by reading it to be sure. You pretend we cannot understand it, M., and you have never tried. Read it, and try and see if it is not light and food for the soul. Of course we need grace for this, as for every blessing. And tell me, M., to whom did the Lord speak when He was teaching, the learned or the poor?

M. Why, they say the poor. The scribes and Pharisees would not listen to Him.

James. And do you think He spoke so that they could understand Him if their hearts were not hardened? Alas, there are many such, poor and rich.

M. Well, I suppose, of course He did.

James. And why should not I, if I humbly seek His help? I do not know Greek of course, but (thank God) it has been put into English, and I can trust Him to get the truth from it. I am not looking for a learned knowledge of it, but for the edification of my soul. Read it in your own translation. There is one they approve of, read it in that, if you won't have ours. I do not believe the blessed Lord meant to make a way for learned men to get to heaven and not for the poor. He says "to the poor the gospel is preached"; and the apostle, "not many wise men, not many rich, not many noble are called, but God hath chosen the foolish things of this world to confound the wise." Yet he wrote almost all his Epistles to these very people.

50 M. Well, what you say there, James, is reasonable. I should like to see what scripture does say; but I do not know whether Father O. will allow me.

James. Father O.! But what right can Father O. have to hinder your hearing what God has said to you? Who gave him the right to keep away from the poor God's word that was once written to the poor? For, as Mr. N*. said, the Epistles, save a few, were written to all the Christians in a place, not to the clergy.

M. Well, but you do not know whether he will hinder me.

James. Perhaps not. They would not be apt to do it when all around can read them; but how comes he to have the right to hinder? or how comes it you are dependent on another man as to whether you may hear what God has said?

M. Well, I doubt that is right too. But surely we ought to obey those who have the rule over us.

James. I have nothing against that, for the scriptures say so. But how comes it they only give you these scraps of them? If one of the family would not let me see my father's will, pretending he was wiser than me, and I was no lawyer, and I should only take a wrong sense out of it, I should not, as a man, like it. I am not a lawyer, and he might be better able to explain lawyer's words in it; but I should like to know what my father did say. Some of it might be plain and for me, and I should know if he was keeping something back from me that was mine in what was plain. I should like to see it. And when one does see the scripture, one sees that God meant us to see it.

N*. Yes, and that is a very important point; because it is not merely going against our rights, as between man and man, but against God's rights as to His own people. And Dr. Milner lets out that Rome does not wish Christians in general to see the scriptures. He says she has confirmed her decrees by them. She enjoins her pastors to read and study them. Finally she proves her perpetual right to announce and explain the truths, etc., by several of the strongest and clearest passages (Lett. 10), but not a word of the faithful seeing or reading them. And James is quite right in what he supposes: where there are many Protestants, the Bible is allowed, and occasionally to those they feel sure of elsewhere, with notes; but otherwise it is not thought of, and Dr. Milner could not speak of liberty to read the scriptures existing, because it is formally denied by the highest authority of the Romish system.

51 The Index of prohibited books has been referred to a committee by the Council of Trent. In the last session this was referred to the pope, and the pope sanctioned the rules they had laid down. In the fourth rule, if a person shall have presumed to read or to have a copy without the express permission of the parish priest or confessor, he cannot receive absolution till the Bible be given up; and a bookseller who sells or otherwise lets a person have one is to forfeit the value for pious uses, and undergo other penalties. Dr. Milner therefore says the Catholic church does not cast any slight on the scriptures. He could not say Christians were free to read them, and M. must get leave from his priest to do so, and that in writing (Rule 4 at the end of Council of Trent), or he would not get absolution.

The Romish system interferes with God's rights — His title to send His own message to His own people; and no one denies that in the primitive churches all were free to read, and encouraged to read, the scriptures. St. Chrysostom insists on it. Nor does Pope Gregory VII (Hildebrand) conceal that many things were done by the early Fathers which were changed by the church in after times, on a critical examination of the matter. God has addressed His word to the people, not, save a very small part (three epistles), to the clergy, and the clergy have taken them away — taken away, as the Lord says, the key of knowledge.

M. And do you not think ignorant people may wrest the scriptures to their own destruction, as it is said?

N*. I think anyone may, if he does not look for God's grace to help and guide him. But I do not think ignorant people do it a thousandth part as much as learned ones, because they come to it more simply as God's word, and respect it. Whereas the learned, thinking they are able to exercise their minds on it and judge about it, do not receive it as little children. Heresies have not come from the ignorant, but from doctors.

God has given the scriptures to the people, and the clergy of Rome have taken them from them. And it is to God they will answer. Augustine insists largely in his book on the unity of the church (chap. 10) against the Donatists, who insisted, just as the Romanists do now, on the obscurity of scripture.

We now turn to another part of your rule of faith — tradition. Your Dr. Milner says, Paul puts the written and unwritten word upon a level, leaving us to suppose that this last is tradition.

52 James. And I thought that was tradition — a doctrine handed down from one to another.

N*. It is not, in the New Testament, except where it is condemned, when the Lord says, "Thus have ye made the word of God of none effect by your tradition." Where remark, that traditions are put expressly in contrast with the word of God. The word of God was complete in itself, and their traditions set it aside, and so do Romanist traditions.

But the passage which Dr. Milner quotes proves that tradition is not used as he uses it. Where the word is used of written and unwritten, the written is called tradition as well as the unwritten. It means any doctrine delivered. Now if Paul delivered a doctrine to me by word of mouth, I ought of course to observe it as if it was in one of his epistles. There is no difference: only that I might forget or change it if it were not written. Here is Paul's phrase — "Stand fast, and hold the tradition ye have been taught, whether by word or our epistle." Of course, what he had taught as truth, they ought to keep. Tradition means what he had taught.

But where are the doctrines which Paul taught which are not found in scripture? They have none to produce: we shall see this just now. Dr. Milner tells us an old wife's tale about the apostles agreeing upon a short symbol, a story which everyone knows to have no foundation. The Apostles' Creed is the Roman creed, with some additions, and the creed of the church of Aquileia, in the fifth century, preserved by Ruffinus, the descent into hell being added afterwards. But, further, a very just and important remark has been made by another as to the way tradition is spoken of by the Fathers, on whom Dr. Milner chiefly rests his case. The word is not used as meaning a source of additional doctrines, an unwritten word besides the written, but as a sure proof of the true faith to be received, and way of knowing the right use of scripture. Tradition for them was a testimony to scriptural truth of a surer kind, as they alleged, not a communication of additional truths besides the scripture. They charged heretics with pretending to a tradition of this kind. They as often appeal to the scriptures against everything else as to tradition; but with them tradition is not a source of additional truths, but a surer proof, as they say, of common truths. Now, I admit freely that, supposing the apostles had not left us the scriptures, men ought to have followed tradition (that is, what the apostles taught) when they had it. The question is, first, would it have secured the preservation of the apostles' doctrine? The apostles thought not, and left us the New Testament — that is, really, the Holy Ghost did. But, secondly, now they have left us the scriptures, are we not to use them? and are we not to reject everything contrary to them, even if it pretends to be a tradition?

53 We will now see what the Fathers say about it, as Dr. M. quotes them. The early Fathers, those near to the time of the apostles, appeal to tradition, not as an additional source of truth, but a security for truth against heresy, against new doctrines, proving by what everybody held all over the world that such heresy was new. Now, though not an authority, it might be useful as a proof of this when it was universal. But as to its securing the certainty of teaching, it cannot, and so God thought, and gave His people a book. History has shewn that it does not, for doctrines have changed. Afterwards tradition came to be appealed to as an independent source of like authority, because the scriptures did not contain a multitude of superstitions which came in; and at last the scriptures were taken away, because they condemned well nigh all that was done and taught, as a certain Peter Sutor (A.D. 1525), a Carthusian monk, innocently confesses, that "the people will be apt to murmur when they see things required, as from the apostles, which they find not a word of in scripture." Whence he concludes it was a rash, useless, and dangerous thing to translate them.

Irenaeus, for example, uses tradition as a security for truth, not as revealing other things besides what is in scripture. The quotation from Tertullian surprises me, because this same Tertullian, after saying the traditions of the different episcopal sees secured the faith, left what called itself the Catholic church, because its state was so bad. It did not secure his faith. Not only so, but the particular tract Dr. Milner quotes was assuredly written when he had left the universal church to become a Montanist, or, at any rate, accepted the Montanist rhapsodies as prophecy, for he says in the first chapter, No wonder they would not face martyrdom, when they reject the prophecies of the Spirit, that is, of the Paraclete, so called, of Montanus. Even here he only insists on rites and ceremonies, and on no doctrine of faith, saying, that if certain ceremonies have been always used they are to be observed, and it is to be assumed there was some tradition as their origin — just shewing that it was to justify superstitious practices they began to use tradition because there was no scripture for them

54 The other proofs of Dr. Milner are drawn from authors from the end of the fourth to the end of the fifth century after Christ, when every perplexity of doctrine, and the grossest relaxation of practice, had come into the church, so that they were glad to get anything to rest their foot upon. Popes had denied the divinity of Christ. The bishops had killed the poor old archbishop of Constantinople by blows in one of their councils, and the vices of the clergy were such that they surely did require something not in scripture to support them. What I have said I will justify when we speak of the marks of the true church. But it will be well to examine the point of tradition a little closer. We will take Tertullian, because he is the first that speaks largely of it in the tract Dr. M. refers to. Here are the points for which he refers to tradition as an authority: —

"Therefore let us inquire whether tradition also should be received if it be not a written one. We will deny that it is to be received if no examples of other observances which we defend, without any written document, on the ground of tradition alone, and then, by the patronage of custom, prejudge the case. Finally, that I may begin with baptism. When we are approaching the water, there but a little before in the assembly, under the hand of the president, we witness that we renounce the devil, and his pomps, and his angels; then we are immersed three times, answering something more than the Lord determined in the gospel. Received back [from the water], we taste a mixture of milk and honey, and from that day abstain from our daily washing for a week. The sacrament of the Eucharist, which was received from the Lord at a time they were eating, and committed to all to celebrate, we take in meetings held before daylight, and not from the hand of others than the president. We make offerings for the dead. We celebrate the anniversaries of martyrs. We count it a wickedness to fast on the Lord's day, or to worship on our knees. We enjoy the same immunity from Easter to Pentecost. We are grieved if any even of our own cup or bread drop on the ground. At every progress and advance, at coming up or going out, in clothing, putting on our shoes, washing at tables, when we bring the lights, when we go to bed, when we sit down, whatever we are engaged in, we sign our forehead with the cross. If you ask scripture for the law of these and other like practices, you will find none. Tradition will be alleged to you to be the source. Custom has confirmed it, and faith observes it."

55 Now that none of these observances are found in scripture I fully admit. But we see what tradition was worth — not kneeling on Sunday, giving a taste of milk and honey to the newly-baptized, and such like futilities, which, not being in scripture, they alleged tradition for. Now it is well to see what the earliest tradition was worth. You have it from Dr. Milner's witness for us; we were to take him as a guide in our inquiry; I have examined what he has alleged. But then I have a few remarks to make here. Had these traditions the authority of the word of God, the alleged unwritten word? The triune immersion in baptism, which some took for a sign of the Trinity, some for three days of Christ's being in the grave — Jerome of the unity too — was insisted upon by Tertullian, Basil, and Jerome, as coming from tradition, Chrysostom refers it to the words of Christ Himself in sending His disciples; Matt. 28. And the so-called apostolical canons order a bishop or presbyter to be deposed who should administer baptism not by three immersions, but by only one in the name of Christ. Pope Pelagius condemns it too, and founds the practice on Christ's words in Matthew. So, it appears, does Theodoret, who accuses Eunomius of changing baptism in not immersing thrice; so Sozomen.

Here, if ever, we have a tradition of the highest character and greatest authority. Alas! it is given up. The Arians used it, and in Spain this alarmed the orthodox, and many gave it up, and others would not, and the whole country was in a practical state of schism. Leander, of the See of Seville, wrote to Gregory the Great. He answers: "Concerning the triune immersion in baptism, nothing can be answered more truly than what thou hast felt, that in one faith a different custom does no harm to the holy church; but in being thrice immersed we mark a sacrament of the three days' burial, as when the infant is taken up the third time out of the water, the resurrection on the third day is expressed. But if anyone thinks that there is an assertion of the exalted Trinity therein, neither as to this is there any hindrance to being plunged only once; since, as there is one substance in three Persons, it can in no way be reprehensible that an infant should be immersed once or thrice in baptism, since in three immersions the trinity of persons, in one the unity of the divinity is designated; but now, as infants are baptized by the heretics with three immersions, I judge that it should not be done among you," Greg. lib. 1, ep. 1, ad Leand.

56 Still the pope's advice did not succeed in stopping the schism. The Spanish Council of Toledo decided that, though, as Gregory judged, both were perfectly innocent, yet they should only immerse once, and comfort all parties by saying that the plunging is a sign of death; the coming up of resurrection; the one immersion, of the unity of the Godhead; the three names, of the Trinity of persons. (Conc. Toledo 4, can. 5.) So this tradition, enforced by deposition from office in the canons which tradition asserted to be those of the apostles, as the same tradition did the creed to be theirs, came to an end. And faith observed it no more. How certain an authority it is! You cannot complain of the choice I have made; it is Dr. Milner's own. I suppose Roman Catholics kneel on Sunday, and from Easter to Pentecost too; so that what Tertullian alleges to be tradition observed by faith has no authority at all.

I shall refer to what Irenaeus says of scripture just now. I do not quote him as to tradition, because his use of it is to appeal to the universal voice of the church to confirm his reasonings from the word against heretics, which is quite another thing from Dr. Milner's use of the word.

But a word more as to Tertullian, who was a lawyer and also a great stickler for church prescription, which is only a principle of Roman civil law, and what Dr. Milner quotes only an advocacy in the terms of Roman law. One question is, Can the authority of tradition secure us in the faith? The answer is, Tertullian himself who insists on it received, at the time he wrote this, the Montanist rhapsodies, as inspiration and the Comforter, and went amongst them, leaving that which he said alone had authority. The most important of his traditions which was universal was given up, Pope Gregory very wisely saying that, if there was unity of faith, such things were of no consequence. How futile most of his traditions are, anyone can see. They are notions and practices crept in from a lively imagination, and that is all; but a dangerous thing in the church of God, because a long observed custom becomes a matter of faith for many.

M. But have we not the Apostles' Creed by tradition, and that they composed it before they went away to preach?

57 N*. The Apostles' Creed, as the church has it now, was composed at different times, and no two churches hardly had just the same. "The Communion of Saints," for example, was added quite late; "the holy church" earlier; the word "Catholic" again later still. The descent into hell was not there at all in the Roman creed called the Apostles'. And it was added very late indeed; it appears in the creed of Aquileia, in the fourth century. As to the apostles making a creed, as Dr. Milner alleges, I am surprised he should quote such a fable; for such it is now, I suppose, universally owned to be. All the creeds are called apostolic, meaning they contain apostolic doctrine. What is now called the Apostles' Creed was the creed of the Roman church with one or two articles added.

This story of the apostles composing it does not appear before the fourth century, and then the story went rapidly farther; for an author, passing under the name of Augustine, gives us the particular article contributed by each apostle. But all this is trumpery and contrary to known history, for it is known that many articles were added, as I have said, quite late in the church's history. Dr. Milner urges, too, that they (the apostles) profess belief in the church (Lett. 10), not in scripture. This is an unfortunate observation. The authors of the creed were stating objects of faith, what they did believe, not sources of revelation, nor the authority for their believing it. They do not speak of believing in tradition either: both would have been absurd, because the question was briefly what they believed, not why, or where they found it.

But, further, the author quoted by Dr. Milner — he who tells us the apostles made the creed — Ruffinus charges his readers to remark that they are not called on to believe in the church (that is, have confidence in it as an authority and source of faith), but only to believe the church — that is, that there was such a thing. If anyone says that it is just the same with every article that they are 811 objects of faith whether there be "in" or not, I shall not contest with him. However Dr. Milner's (Lett. 10) authority presses strenuously the remark that we are only to believe the objective fact that there is a church, but not to believe in it — that is, draws exactly the opposite conclusion to that for which Dr. M. quotes him. He says, "By this syllable of a preposition (believing the church, instead of in the church) the Creator is separated from the creatures, and divine things are separated from human." (Ruffinus in Symb. Apostolorum); and St. Augustine and after him the schoolmen insist on the difference in principle.

58 But I must return a moment to a remark I made to you. The word "tradition" is shamefully abused. No one doubts that the disciples ought to receive whatever the apostles taught by word of mouth. The question is whether we can have it now handed down unwritten outside scripture. Now the scripture and the earliest writers used the word simply in the sense of teaching; as in the passage quoted by Dr. Milner, "the tradition which ye have received by word or our epistle." That had not been handed down. Paul had taught them by word of mouth; he had taught them by letter: they were to receive both. Of course they were; but they had received both directly from the apostle; there was no handing down. It means his teaching, and he uses it so elsewhere. Now it is dishonest trifling to use this to prove what is alleged when the word is used in another sense. Tradition means now what is handed down unwritten from one to another, the unwritten word as distinguished from scripture. Paul says, tradition by letter or words. It is not the same thing he speaks of. The duty of receiving what Paul taught by word of mouth has nothing to do with proving that handing down by words of mouth means our having what was not written by them. Ignatius, as quoted by Eusebius, uses tradition as Paul does — that is, as apostolic teaching.

James. Well, M., that seems quite clear. When Paul speaks of tradition by letter or word, he does not use it as you do now, and Dr. Milner ought not to have quoted it. It has nothing to do with the matter.

N*. We say Paul and the rest did teach by word of mouth; but what God meant for the church in all ages he caused them to commit to writing. Now first let us see how the Lord speaks and acts in this respect. He does speak of tradition, when it was something handed down added to the written word; and thus the scribes and Pharisees asked Him why His disciples transgressed the tradition of the elders. "But he answered and said unto them, Why do ye also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition? … Thus have ye made the commandment of God of none effect by your tradition": adding from Esaias, "In vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men." Now we charge the Romanists with this. They worship God in vain, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. They have taken away one of the ten commandments, and made two of the last to make out the ten, and added six commandments of the church (others make eight, dividing one, and adding one — to pay tithes). They are to be binding as God's commandments, besides a hundred other human ordinances.

59 James. Is that true, M.?

M. The church has given commandments besides the ten.

James. And left out the second?

M. Deuteronomy proves that it is only a part of the first, and that the last two are distinct, for they are in a different order from Exodus.

N*. But you have left out the second and divided the tenth, and that second is, "Thou shalt not make to thyself any graven image, or the likeness of anything that is in heaven or on earth." And you have made graven images and set them up in all your churches, and in your streets and roads, where you can.

James. Well, I had no thought of what their doctrine was. My wife might well say that it was not Christianity as God gave it. Why, a child may see that.

N*. The Lord never appeals to tradition but openly condemns it, and appeals to scripture, saying it cannot be broken. The apostles never do, but always quote the scriptures, not only so, but foreseeing by the prophetic Spirit what would come on the church, they tell us our security would be the divinely-inspired scriptures, and Timothy's knowing the person who had taught the doctrine which thus only could have authority, and so of us. And Peter expressly says he would take care they should have the testimony of God, and writes his epistle, clearly shewing that thus, and thus only, and not by oral tradition, the truth would remain and be secured to them.

Further, the Romanist cannot tell us one truth with any knowledge of whom it came from — cannot authenticate as apostolic a single tradition. Paul does refer to what he had taught by word of mouth without repeating it in writing. "Now ye know what letteth." Now here the Romanists cannot supply anything by tradition at all. Where tradition (if of any value) would come in they can say nothing at all. Yet they have the Fathers very clear upon this. They have a church tradition upon this. The apostle says that, when this hindrance was removed, the man of sin would come. Now the Fathers taught it was the Roman empire; and prayed for its continuance, persecuting as it was, that the dreadful time of Antichrist might not come. But there they were all wrong. The Roman empire is gone and the man of sin not come, however much the pope may have his spirit. See the wisdom of scripture.

60 Now, as an external hindrance the Roman empire may have been what hindered (though the presence of the church on earth with the Holy Ghost dwelling in it I believe to have been the cause); but if the apostle had said, in what God was giving for all ages, it was the Roman empire, it would have turned out subsequently to have been inexact. And therefore the Spirit of God, in what was written, left it in terms the import of which are to be learned by the spiritual mind from the word. The Fathers may have been right that the external hindrance then was the Roman empire. I can suppose Paul may have even spoken of this as the then hindrance; but by leaning on tradition they went all wrong. The Holy Ghost for all ages only taught the general truth. The tradition has proved false, and the body that trusts to it now cannot supply one word to say what it meant.

Now I do not own the smallest authority in the Fathers. I own it in nothing but the word of God; but, as they have been quoted, I shall quote them as to the scripture, to shew they argued exactly in an opposite way to which Dr. Milner quotes them for. I recognize no authority of any kind in the Fathers, for the simple reason that they neither give us, nor pretend to give us, any revelation from God. Whether they have given the doctrine of the apostles correctly is easily ascertained by comparing them with the apostles' writings; and as a general fact I affirm that they do not, and this on all the most vital subjects. It is all nonsense to talk of their judgment being surer than ours, because the scriptures are not easy to understand. I answer, the scriptures are just as easy to understand as the Fathers. If they are to be the rule of faith they are in Latin and Greek, and instead of one volume full of truth and riches, I have masses of folios, with some good things in them here and there, but a vast quantity of confusion, heresy, and trash. If I am to take them as witnesses of what the apostles taught, it is much simpler to take the apostles own writings. However I shall refer to them, since they are quoted and made a parade of, to shew how little ground there is for trusting what is said of them, or, I must add, what they say.

61 Irenaeus, whom Dr. Milner quotes, begins the reasonings of the passage thus (Contra Haereses, lib. 3, chap. 3): — "We have not known the dispositions of our salvation but by those by whom the gospel came to us, which, indeed, they then preached, but afterwards by the will of God have delivered to us in writings, which were to be the foundation and column of our faith. Nor is it right to say they preached before they had a perfect knowledge." He then refers to the Gospels as flowing from their teaching.

In the second chapter we come to the key of the whole matter. The Valentinian heretics against whom he wrote (who held it was a bad God that made the world and gave the Old Testament), finding they could not prove their doctrines by scripture, pretended there were other doctrines which the apostles taught and had not written, appealing, that is, as Romanists do — for it is the old heretical story — to the unwritten word known by tradition. "For when," he says, "they are convicted out of the scriptures, they turn to accusations against the scriptures themselves, as if they were not right, nor of authority, and because things are variously said there, and because the truth cannot be found out from them by those who are ignorant of tradition, for that was not delivered in writing, but viva voce." Thus, what Dr. Milner insists on is exactly what these horrible heretics insisted on, and Irenaeus' language is. The Fathers had no such tradition, but believed in one supreme God. The heretics appealed to unwritten tradition, because the scriptures were not clear, nor could be understood without tradition, and that there were things taught by tradition besides the scriptures.

62 Irenaeus then takes them on their own ground, and says, "Let them take their own ground. How can we have surer tradition than in the churches founded by apostles, and especially Rome, where Peter and Paul both were? None of them teach, nor have taught, that there was a bad God." He does not appeal to them for any doctrine not contained in the word, but to confirm his reasonings, taken from the scriptures, against the spurious traditions of these heretics; and adds then that missionaries, who taught heathens who are utterly barbarous without written documents, taught no such doctrine, and their testimony was to be received. In this way Irenaeus uses the common faith of the church to refute a pretended tradition, saying that what the apostles taught was written down, and condemning the appeal to an unwritten word for something not in scripture. Only he shews that tradition, if heretics would have it, rejected them. Remember then, that Irenaeus is arguing against heretics, because they appealed to tradition as revealing doctrines not in scripture, and interpreting scripture itself, and resists this doctrine, adding that if you appeal to the universal consent of the churches they confirm what he alleges from scripture. It is the Romanists who take the ground which the godly Irenaeus denounces as the conduct of the heretics, who insisted there was tradition besides scripture, and that scripture could not be rightly used without it.

It is the same in substance, but yet stronger, in the case of Tertullian, who is blindly quoted as the great authority for tradition. He too complains of the heretics for affirming that the apostles taught doctrines besides what is in scripture, alleging sometimes that they did not know all things, sometimes that they did not teach all things publicly. And he declares that these heretics quote certain passages of scripture to shew that there were secret doctrines which they did not teach to all, founding the doctrine of an unwritten tradition on them. The very same course is pursued by the Roman doctors to prove there is an unwritten tradition besides scripture. Tertullian declares there was no such thing; but that the apostles taught publicly all they had received to teach, first by word of mouth, and then afterwards in their epistles; and, denying these heretics to be Christians at all, he says they ought to be, according to the scriptures rejected after one rebuke (a mistake of his, by the bye, Paul says a first and second), and not after disputation, and that Christians had better not dispute with them.

Now, though declamatory and loose, there is a great deal of truth in this. But I will shew you from the passage the exactness of what I have said. He speaks as one weak and vexed, but with a great deal of truth, though on some points we shall see his reasoning is defective at any time, and wholly useless for the purpose Romanists quote it for. He speaks of the twelve (strange to say, he does not notice Paul here) being sent forth and promulgating the same faith, and founding churches in each city, from which other churches afterwards borrowed in turn the continuation of the faith and seeds of doctrine, and yet, says he, "borrow, and thus are counted apostolic, as the offspring of apostolic churches. It is necessary that every kind of thing should be estimated according to its origin. Therefore so many and so great [as the] churches [may be], that first one [founded by] the apostles, from which all are [derived], is one; so all are the first and apostolic, while all together approve unity … Here therefore we found our prescription. If the Lord Jesus Christ sent the apostles to preach, others are not to be received as preachers than those Christ instituted; since none knew the Father but the Son, and he to whom He has revealed Him, nor does the Son appear to have revealed Him to others than to the apostles, whom He sent to preach surely that which He had revealed to them. But what they have preached, that is, what Christ revealed to them, and here I use prescription (the Roman form of pleading), that it ought not to be otherwise proved, but by these churches which the apostles themselves founded by preaching to them, as well viva voce (by word of mouth), as men say, as afterwards by epistles … Let us communicate with the apostolic churches, because none have a different doctrine; this is the testimony of truth." He then insists largely that all was revealed to the apostles, and that there could not be any other doctrine added which they had not. Now note here that he insists on the epistles as containing these same truths that were taught. But suppose I follow now Tertullian's advice, and that I go to the churches which the apostles founded. They have pretty nearly disappeared. I go to Jerusalem, and I find such fighting for the Holy Sepulchre between Armenians, Greeks, and Romanists, of different ways of thinking, that the Turks are obliged to have troops and men with whips to keep order.

63 The churches founded by apostles have almost disappeared by the judgment of God, they were become so corrupt. Rome was not founded by apostles. That is certain, for Paul writes a letter to them, and to a church there, before any apostle had been there, and when he went there he was a prisoner. In fine, if I go to the places which the apostles did found, as far as they subsist, they reject the Romish church altogether, and Rome is striving to gain proselytes from them. They are Greeks, Armenians, Jacobites. In result these early Fathers did not use tradition as giving additional truths, but as the common consent of the churches, to shew that their statements from scripture were sound and true, and that none had ever held what the heretics advanced. That the heretics' opinions began since the apostles, and therefore could not be true, because the apostles had been guided into all truth. Tertullian says, if the heretics were in the apostles' time, they are condemned, being only now somewhat more refined in form; or they were not in the apostles' time, and their later origin condemns them.*

{*Tert. de Praescriptione Haereticorum 20, and following: ed. Rig. 208. I do not think Tertullian's confidence in scripture and grace, to use it by the Spirit, was sound. Hence, when tested, he had no strength against the fanatic pretensions of Montanus. In a preceding part of this treatise he, leaning on human argumentation, says, "If you quote a text, the heretics will quote another, so you are losing your breath"; but his arguments refer to them as a means of convicting heretics, not as the source of truth, and he refers Irenaeus to what was held by all, and not as a proof of an unwritten truth, but as a proof that what the heretics taught of two Gods, a bad and a good one, and the like, did not come from the apostles; it was new, or already condemned by the apostles. The apostles knew all that was revealed, and taught it all. The heretics pretended to some secret or concealed doctrine, but no church had these doctrines. It is a proof of what was taught. The Romanist is clearly on the ground the heretics were on.}

64 Now that is exactly what is the truth as to the doctrines of Romanism. Peter Lombard, in the twelfth century, was the first who taught there were just seven sacraments, and Bellarmine confesses that Christ taught nothing directly as to some, and Cardinal Bessarion admits there were originally only two, baptism and the Lord's supper. And we can give the date or gradual growth of the doctrines in which we differ from them.

On the other side, the practical force of Tertullian's argument is wholly gone. There he reasons to prove that no churches had these new doctrines of the heretics, so that they were proved to be new. "Go through the apostolic churches," he says, "where as yet the sees of the apostles preside in their places, where their own authentic letters are read, sounding out the voice, and representing the face of each one. Is Achaia nearest to you?" You have Corinth. I go to Corinth now; it condemns Rome. "If you are not far from Macedonia, thou hast Philippi, thou hast Thessalonica." I cannot go to Philippi, all the place has disappeared. I go to Thessalonica; they condemn Rome again. "If not, thou canst go into Asia; thou hast Ephesus. But if thou art adjacent to Italy, Rome, whose authority is to be had for us." (He lived in Africa, over against Italy.) He declares they would find none of the new doctrines. Now remark here, first, that his appeal to this sure tradition was finding the scriptures, the authentic letters, still extant, which proved what the doctrine of the apostles was; and, secondly, if I go to these churches now, those which remain (except Rome itself) condemn Rome, and the rest can furnish no evidence at all, they are gone. What does remain of apostolic churches outside herself universally condemns her.

65 James. I do not see, M., what I, or any one, can gain by what is here said of tradition, nor what your doctors can gain from it but confusion. He appeals for the doctrine which is in scripture to Corinth and Ephesus and others, as witnesses that they never held such a doctrine as these heretics. But though that may have served as a testimony, as far as it went then, yet the facts prove how unsteady a foundation it was for the truth; for of these places, some of them do not exist at all, and if I were to go to the others, they do not agree with Rome. Of the means referred to I have nothing hardly left to prove scripture right; and what is left, if it be worth anything, proves Rome wrong. This is not much help to your cause. The churches mentioned in scripture I find are against you, where they still exist. Not that I believe any of them as authority, but they upset your argument from tradition entirely. You must find something better than this to build on. If I followed the direction Dr. Milner, I see, quotes — which I should be sorry to do, because God has left us the scriptures, but if I did — I must reject him, and Rome with him; because, in following the ordinances of tradition in the apostolic churches, I find that they are separated from Rome and condemn it.

N*. You are perfectly right, James; and there is a plain proof in Dr. Milner himself that he knew this well and saw it plainly enough, because in quoting Tertullian he has left all this part of the passage out. Tertullian says, "Go through the apostolic churches. Is Achaia next to thee? thou hast Corinth. If thou art not far from Macedonia, thou hast Philippi, thou hast the Thessalonians; if not, thou canst go into Asia, thou hast Ephesus; but if thou art near Italy, Rome," etc. Now all the former part Dr. Milner carefully leaves out, and begins with "if you live near Italy." He saw plainly enough that all his fine security by tradition would fall to the ground, overthrown by the passage, if he had honestly quoted it; because, as I have said, either the witnesses which afforded the security, the apostolic churches, had gone, having ceased to exist, or they were opposed to Rome. I regret to say half one's work with the advocates of Romanism is to detect deceit of this kind.

66 James. Well, but, M., what do you say to this? This is not honest. Had he quoted all the passage, it would have upset all he was pleading for.

M. Well, I never read Tertullian of course. I should take it as Dr. Milner gave it. I supposed it was fair, and never meant to deceive you.

James. I am sure you did not. But you must see we cannot take all as Dr. Milner gives it. It is something to see that we cannot trust his reasonings. That is not the spirit of Christ any way, and that helps one to see clear.

N*. We have gained three points. The heretics first contended for some doctrines delivered by tradition, and not contained in scripture. The Fathers resisted this. Next, when tradition was first spoken of by the early Fathers, they used it as a testimony of the churches confirming the doctrines taught from scripture, not as containing additional doctrines. Thirdly, as to the basis laid by Tertullian, on whom they so much rely, it fails altogether as a secure proof, and what it does testify of condemns Rome. I add, that they used it so far with a good intention that their object was to shew what Christ and His apostles had originally taught, and that they had taught everything openly to all, in order to reject novel doctrines introduced subsequently. Their insisting on having what was at the beginning, what Tertullian for example asserts, "That that which was from the beginning is true," is perfectly just. This is what we insist on. And we condemn the Romanists because all their peculiar doctrines are novelties, the dates or gradual introduction of them being historically demonstrable.

Thus purgatory was hinted at in the fifth century, said to be useful for very small sins in the sixth, and then only gradually grew up. Transubstantiation was never decreed definitively till the thirteenth, and the contrary was taught by the most famous doctors previously. The saints were prayed for, as we have seen, not to, for centuries, so that they had to alter the Roman liturgy to suit the change. So the so-called sacrifice of the Mass can be traced from the sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving (whence the word Eucharist), the presenting offerings before the consecration (whence the word Offertory) — both of which were called the unbloody offering, or sacrifice — to the applying it to the elements after consecration; and, lastly, but not till very late, to its being the real sacrifice of Christ, efficacious for the sins of quick and dead, and the liturgy was changed accordingly. I am not now examining the truth or falsehood of these doctrines, but their novelty. Romanists are now in the position of the heretics of old, alleging tradition for new doctrines which are not found in scripture. We, on the contrary, rest solely on the word of God, the scriptures, as authority, for this is certainly what was at the beginning, and, on the other hand, we can appeal to history, and prove the introduction of the particular doctrines they insist on as novelties among Christians.

67 But Dr. Milner cites other Fathers, and it will be useful in many respects to refer to them. The fact is, they argued as it suited them at the moment. When heretics pressed scripture, they flew to tradition, not at first as containing distinct truth, but as a witness of the truth of what they alleged was scriptural — a use we have seen to be impossible now, because the churches they appealed to, the apostolic churches, have disappeared, or are hostile to Rome. But, besides, these citations will give us the worth of the Fathers' reasonings, and how they contradict, not each other merely, but themselves. Dr. Milner passes by, he tells us, Clement of Alexandria; he was right in doing so for his cause. Clement resists the Gnostics, or men of knowledge, who infested the church, saying that ordinary Christians had elements, but that the secret full doctrine of Christianity was in their blasphemies. Tertullian met this by shewing that the apostles had taught all publicly (Tert., de Praescriptione 22, and following).

Clement took another course. He says that Christ spoke in parables in order not to be understood by ordinary Christians, but that there were christian Gnostics, who by temperance,* a human thing, and desiring and laborious, and prudence, a divine thing, arrived at Gnosis, and thus had got higher truths and intelligence to understand what was concealed from vulgar eyes. This was to be received according to the ecclesiastical rule, and the ecclesiastical rule is the consent and harmony, both of the law and the prophets, with the covenant delivered** during the Lord's presence. (Clem. Alex., Potter 2, 802, 3; Strom. 6.) His principle is bad, but his appeal is to the scriptures. Nor is Clement, after all, very famous for orthodoxy. He was saturated with Alexandrian Platonism, and was thoroughly sound neither on the divinity nor on the humanity of the Lord. I do not make a heretic of him, but, to say the least, he uses very awkward language, so that the famous Romanist doctor, Petau, charges him plainly with not speaking in an orthodox way.

{*oion e sophrosune de ateles phronesis ephiemene men phroneseos, ergatike de epiponos.}

{**paradidomene, the word used for tradition.}

68 Dr. Milner passes over Cyprian too, quite naturally. He strenuously resisted all the pretensions of Rome to the day he was martyred. But not only so, Stephen of Rome, not being able to prove his point against him on a subject of practice and discipline, appealed to tradition on the usage of the church. "Let nothing," says Stephen, "be innovated on what has been handed down" (tradition). "Whence," replies Cyprian, "is that tradition? Does it descend from the authority of the Lord and the Gospels, and come from the commandments and Epistles of the apostles? For God bears witness that those things are to be done which are written, and speaks to Joshua the son of Nun, saying, 'The book of this law shall not depart out of thy mouth, but thou shalt meditate in it day and night, that thou mayest observe to do all things that are written therein.' … What obstinacy is that [in the pope]! what presumption, to prefer human tradition to a divine disposition, and not to take notice that God is indignant and angry as often as human tradition sets aside and passes by divine precepts, as He cries out and say by Esaias the prophet, 'This people honour me with their lips, but their heart is far from me.'" (Ep. 74, 80, Oxford.) He tells us that if a canal does not give us the water as purely and freely as it used, we go up to the source; we see if the water has failed, or the canal is leaky, or stopped — so we must return to the original of the law and the gospel, and the apostolic teaching, and let the principle of our acting spring from that whence its order and origin spring.

James. No wonder he passes by Cyprian. He pleads here just for what we do in insisting on the scriptures against the pope.

N*. We may turn to Origen. Dr. Milner does not say where the passage he quotes is, but Origen speaks distinctly in the beginning of his Principia of tradition as all these early Fathers do. That is, when the heretics brought in tradition besides scripture, they condemn it; and when they pervert scripture, they say it is to be understood according to the common faith of the church, and novelties, whose beginning could be shewn, were not to be received. However, Origen himself was driven away by his bishop for every wild novelty imaginable. He allows no knowledge out of scripture. Speaking of the peace-offerings, he says, "These two days are the two testaments, in which we may search out and discuss everything relating to God, and from thence receive all knowledge of things. But if anything remains which is not decided by divine scripture, no other third writing ought to be received as an authority for any knowledge (because this is called the third day), but what remains let us give to the fire, that is, leave to God, for in the present life it has not pleased God that we should know all things." (Hom. 5, on Levit. (213) 2.) Thus, while he referred to the common consent of the churches against the novelties of heretics (those who taught there were two Gods), he allows no authoritative source of knowledge but the two testaments.

69 This is just what we have seen with Tertullian, from whom I add a sentence here: "But that all things were made from subsisting materials I have not yet read. Let Hermogene's workshop shew that it is written. If it is not written, let him fear the woe destined to those who add or take away." (Tert. adv. Haer. 22.) Bellarmine does not venture to quote Origen.

Dr. Milner quotes Basil. The passage he quotes has no reference to any doctrine, if, indeed, it be genuine, which others than Protestants have doubted. Some objected to saying in a doxology, "the Father and the Son with the Holy Ghost," and said scripture always said "in the Spirit, not with." He says, "Surely this one expression, used with no premeditation or purpose, may be allowed, so long in use as it has been," and then refers to practices in the church which rested solely on tradition, the sense of which most did not understand, just the same as Tertullian refers to praying towards the east (how few, he says, know it refers to paradise), signing with the cross, praying standing on Sunday, and from Easter to Pentecost, anointing with oil, immersing three times in baptism, and so on.

Now, that superstitions were creeping in, and more than that, when Basil wrote, nearly four hundred years after Christ, when, indeed, corruption and false doctrine had made havoc of the church, is quite true. Men used to live in sin, and wait till they were dying to be baptized, in order to get off quite clear. I do not mean that all did, but adduce the fact to shew the corruption that had come in. It was nearly at the same epoch that the whole of Christendom, save confessing martyrs, had denied the divinity of the Lord. We have seen that Basil was not speaking of doctrine when he referred to traditions, but to mere rites or liturgical forms, "one expression." But when he speaks of doctrine, here are his words, "Believe the things that are written; the things that are not written do not seek." (Hom. 29.) (Adversus Calum., Bened. ed. 2, 611 E.) "It is a manifest falling away from faith, and convicts of arrogance, to annul anything of the things that are written, or to introduce anything of the things that are not written." (2, 224 D.) Poor Basil himself too became suspected of heresy. He never would say the Holy Ghost was God. The excuse was that, if he had, he would have been driven from his see, and the heretics would have had all his flock in their power; so he avoided the word, and said what was equivalent. So he defends himself, and says, "If a Jew owned Jesus to be the Anointed, but would not say Christ, ought he not to be received, as it is the same thing?" Such is the security Fathers afford; but we will return to this state of things.

70 "Every word or matter ought to be accredited by the testimony of inspired scripture. (Basil, Moralia Reg. 26, P. 254.) Nor ought anyone to dare to annul or add anything. For if everything which is not of faith is sin, as the apostle says, and faith by hearing, and hearing by the word of God, everything outside inspired scripture, not being of faith, is sin," (79, 22, 317).

Let me add at once that what Dr. Milner quotes from Augustine and Vincent of Lerins confirms all I have said. Neither speak of doctrines learnt from tradition, but both take the universal faith of the church to guide in the interpretation of scripture. Epiphanius applies also the authority of tradition only to practice, namely, that unmarried persons who dedicated themselves to God sinned if they married afterwards, quoting what Paul says of the younger widows as analogous; but says, if there is no scripture, it ought to be accepted as founded on tradition. He is reasoning against those who forbade to marry, and says the church approved marriage, but admired people not marrying, and then he refers to tradition as helpful in understanding scripture.

71 Chrysostom alone speaks to the point of all Dr. Milner has quoted. He has given the whole sentence. It is all he has on 2 Thessalonians 2:15. But it is a very unfortunate case, because the Fathers, as we have seen, had a traditional interpretation of this chapter, namely, that what let (or hindered) was the Roman empire; and they, though persecuted, prayed it might subsist, because when removed Antichrist would come. It was removed, and Antichrist did not come, unless the pope be Antichrist; and if you ask Romanists what tradition was given which is not in the passages, or what is the tradition by word of which the apostle speaks, they cannot tell you a word about it. That is, the passage shews that tradition is wholly incompetent to preserve an unwritten apostolic teaching. Here is one alluded to: who can tell me what it is? I see the wisdom of God in it, I think clearly, in the scripture not saying what it was; because what was then the hindrance is not the present one; but at any rate your tradition is dumb and can tell us nothing. When religion became a religion of ordinances, not of truth, the traditions which were in vogue for them became the groundwork of all the Christian system and the Bible disappeared. But little as I trust the Fathers for any doctrine, they speak plainly enough as to scripture, and Chrysostom urges with all persevering eloquence and zeal everybody's reading them, saying they were written by poor uneducated men on purpose that they might be plain for such; and that laymen occupied in the world had more need to read them than monks or clergy.

I add a few passages as to the exclusive authority of scripture. Athanasius against the heathen says, "For the holy and inspired scriptures are sufficient for the promulgation of all truth." (Oratio contra Gentes, Ben. 1.) So Ambrose, "How can we adopt these things which we do not find in the holy scriptures?" So Gregory of Nyssa, quoted by Euthymius, "As that is not supported by scripture, we reject it as false." So Jerome, "As those things which are written we do not deny, so those which are not written we refuse." (Contra Helvid. 19, 2, 226, Veron. ed.) So Augustine, "In those things which are specially laid down in scripture, all those things are found which contain faith and the morals of life." (De Doctr. Chris. 2, 9.) And again, "I owe my consent without any refusal to the canonical scriptures alone." (De Nat. et Grat.) And similar quotations might be multiplied. So even as to councils, "Neither ought I to object the Council of Nice to you, nor you that of Ariminum (an Arian council of some eight hundred bishops) to me; by the authority of scripture let us weigh matter with matter, cause with cause, reason with reason." (Contra Maxim. 3, 14.) So in contrast with the doctors of the church (that is, the Fathers), "For we should not consent to Catholic bishops if they by chance are deceived, and have opinions contrary to the canonical scriptures of God." (De Unit. Eccl. 11, Ben. 9, 355.) And so in his Epistles and other writings he says, over and over again, he has liberty to differ from them, and is bound only by the scriptures. Now either I am to receive these passages as right, and then, if the Fathers are consistent, consider this to be their doctrine; or if you can quote passages from them contradictory of these, then you make their authority to be simply and totally void.

72 If you ask me what I think, I think they used, like other men, the best grounds they thought they could find, and, when the heretics or the pope pleaded tradition, said that all must be proved by scripture. When they were, as Tertullian, perplexed by their subtle quotations of scripture, instead of doing as the Lord did when Satan quoted it, quoting another passage, which forbade what Satan used it for, they turned to tradition, but not to learn doctrines not in scripture, but to prove that of the heretics to be new. As a mere argument as to fact, it might prove it so far; but if a doctrine be in scripture, clearly it is not new but from the beginning, and it is able to make the man of God perfect. What Dr. Milner has said of tradition is at any rate entirely unfounded. What is of more importance than all, the blessed Lord has condemned it as the false foundation of His enemies, and that God was worshipped in vain by men who followed it.

M. And what do you make of the sabbath, and the change from the seventh day to the first? Is not this a proof that you must follow tradition?

N*. Certainly not. If the blessed privilege of the Lord's day depended on tradition, I for one would hold it as of no force whatever. I might bear with one who observed it, because Paul tells us to do that — "one man regardeth one day above another, another man every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind." But it does not rest on tradition. The change from the seventh day to the first is connected with the essence of Christianity and the Person of the Lord Jesus. The sabbath was the sign and seal of the Old covenant, the witness that God's people had a part in the rest of God, which in itself is the very essence of our everlasting blessing. But it was then given, as all was, in connection with an earthly system, and was a sign of the rest of the old creation, as it indeed was originally so instituted in paradise. But the rejection of the Lord when He came into that is the proof that man cannot have rest in the old creation, that he is a sinner and needs redemption out of that state. The blessed Lord, become a man, was for that not less the Lord, and came to accomplish this redemption, and as Son of man was above all these things — was Lord of the sabbath as of everything else. It had been given for man in grace and goodness, though it took the form of law, as all did among the Jews.

73 But we as redeemed have to do with the new creation. All that system has found its end in the death of Christ; not the rest of God, but the hope of rest in the old creation. So Christ lay in the grave that sabbath, but now He is risen, risen the first day of the week, and the firstfruits of them that slept. We begin our Christian life as the firstfruits of God's creatures. We begin as dead and risen in Christ. We do not therefore celebrate the rest of the old creation — we were utterly lost as belonging to that; but the resurrection of our blessed Lord, as the foundation and beginning of the new, when redemption is accomplished. Hence, after His resurrection He meets His disciples that first day of the week when they were assembled, and the first, or Lord's day following the same thing, and thenceforth it is carefully distinguished in scripture. We learn the disciples came together the first day of the week to break bread. They were to set apart, in grace, for the poor on the first day of the week. And in the Revelation it is called "the Lord's day," just as the supper is called "the Lord's Supper." Hence we own with joy the Lord's day, as scripture teaches us, the first day of the week, not the seventh, in which the Lord's body lay in the grave, the witness that the old creation was judged, condemned, and passed away — that there was no rest in it but to die: no rest for the old man, but the restlessness of sin and the misery of its fruits; no rest in it for the new man, nor for Christ, because all was polluted and alienated from God. And He teaches us that He came to work in grace and die in it, and begin all anew, of which His resurrection, and the Lord's day as a sign of it, is witness.

74 M. I do not understand a word you are saying. I see scripture says Christ was Lord of the sabbath, and that the first day was set apart, and that it speaks of the Lord's day. But what you are saying about it is too high for me.

N*. Well, M., take the fact at any rate that you admit that Christ was Lord of the sabbath, that His authority was above it, and that after His resurrection the first day is the day distinguished in scripture, not the seventh. This proves our point now, that we do not receive it from tradition but from scripture.

James. Well, M., I am no wiser than you, yet I do understand it. But I see plainly it is not from any wisdom in me, but that I know that in the flesh and under the law I am lost, and that Christ has died and is risen again, and if any man be in Him, he is a new creature; old things are passed away, all things are become new. And Christ's resurrection is the beginning of this hope, and that is where our rest is founded, and not in the old creation; so we have that and the first day of the week as the witness of blessing and that God's rest belongs to us, not a sign of the rest of the first creation, when God rested on the seventh day, when He had made all things good, for sin had spoiled that, and the apostle says (Heb. 4) that man never entered into that. And I am sure we know he did not. Toil, and sin, and death are not rest. At any rate, as you say, we have it taught in scripture that the first day of the week, not the seventh, is the one marked out "the Lord's day," and that suffices. The Jews had the seventh day.

N*. Well, I turn to washing the feet, which is the other point Dr. Milner speaks of. It is a foolish point, because the Lord expressly declares that His meaning in it they did not then understand; that is, it had a spiritual signification which they would afterwards understand; in a word, that He did not mean the literal act, but that it was merely the sign of what required spiritual understanding. It is absurd to suppose that such a mere outward act gives a part with Christ. And what the sign of water means is told us, "Ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you." And again to "sanctify and cleanse it [the church] by the washing of water by the word."

The next proof of tradition Dr; Milner gives is a singularly unhappy one for Romanist doctrines. "The whole sacred history," he says, "was preserved by the patriarchs in succession, from Adam down to Moses, during the space of two thousand four hundred years by means of tradition." Now the flood came in this period, because men had grown so wicked and cast off God that Noah alone remained to be preserved. And after the flood all the world fell away into idolatry, so that God called Abraham out of it to begin afresh and have a nation for Himself in which He should keep the knowledge of the true God alive by a written law, because men so entirely lost the knowledge of Him when they had not one. Here is Paul's account of this time, "Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful, but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened; professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds and four-footed beasts, and creeping things. Wherefore God gave them up to uncleanness … And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them up to a reprobate mind," etc. This is a poor but true history of the time when man was left to tradition. The difference of Romanism now is this — there is a written word, and they have taken it away and put reproach upon it; and as the heathen corrupted the doctrine of one God by idolatry and many false gods, so the Romanists, when God had sent His Son to bring men back, have corrupted the doctrine of one Divine Mediator by making many human and false ones.

75 James. I do not see, M., how Dr. Milner could refer to that time. It upsets all he seeks to prove. Why, it shews that, when man had only tradition, he was lost in sin and idolatry altogether, so that only one was saved from the flood with his family, and Abraham had to be called out miraculously because all had gone into idolatry. And it is true you have gone away from the one Mediator to have many false ones that we do not want and that are of no use.

N*. Well, we will go on with Dr. Milner. He quotes Pope Stephen as referring to tradition. But this is just the tradition on which St. Cyprian opposed him; and all the African churches and Firmilian and those of Asia Minor opposed him, saying his tradition was false. It is just an additional proof of the uncertainty of tradition, and it is the very case which makes Augustine say that, if the doctors of the church go wrong, he is not bound by them. Dr. Milner's statement as to the agreement of the Greek, Nestorian, Eutychian, and other bodies in the East along with Romanists (save on the pope's supremacy — a pretty important point when infallibility is in question) is simply untrue. They are corrupt enough, God knows; but they reject a quantity of Romanist doctrine and discipline too: as, to name no others, purgatory is wholly rejected in the Greek church, and the procession of the Holy Ghost from the Son. And as to Eutychians, they held that Christ had not really two distinct natures, but that the Godhead was as the soul of Christ; the Nestorians, on the other hand, divided the Person, though at first it was merely a very just refusal to call Mary the mother of God.* Nestorius wished to say the mother of Him who is God. However, intrigues had the upper hand.

{*The heathen, who had rejected the preaching of Christ, gave up their temples in crowds when they had a woman to worship.}

76 As to Dr. Milner's saying that it was easier to change the scriptures, so that they would be uncertain as a rule, nobody read them, a few monks copied them in the monasteries, but save that, nobody could read, and the clergy taught what they liked. There was no object in changing scripture; besides, I doubt not God watched over it.

As to saying that religious novelties would have produced violent opposition, and of course tumults, it is too bad and dishonest. Why, half the time of the emperors was spent in keeping the peace or trying to do so, for they never succeeded. The majority of bishops in Africa seceded, and some of their partisans got the name of circumcelliones, or vagabonds, for going about using violence. And at last they were put down by the emperor by force. One council, gathered to settle these doctrinal disputes, killed an old archbishop because he did not agree with them. First, the orthodox got the Arians banished, and then the Arians got the orthodox. On the subject of images, council voted against council, and then it came in the East to wars, in which a strong party held their ground a hundred years against the emperors. Why, the whole history of the church is the history of violence and banishment, and bloodshed, and tumult, on account of doctrinal and church disputes. The streets of Alexandria and Rome have streamed with blood through them, and the civil authority had to put it down. As to transubstantiation and invocation of saints, we shall come to them in their place. H story will shew whether Dr. Milner has been rash in trusting to the presumed ignorance of his readers in referring to them.

77 I have now gone through the question of tradition and what Dr. Milner has to say on it. I do not think we have found either certainty or the church by it yet. I still ask, Since you appeal to the church and authority, where is it? The scripture does act on my conscience and heart, and I bow to it as the word of God, as that word which pierces to the dividing asunder the joints and marrow and soul and spirit; it is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart, and I bow as finding myself, when I read it, before Him in whose sight all things are naked and open. Not so when you speak to me of the church and what you hold up to me as such. As an outward authority in unity, where is it to be found? Dr. Milner suppresses that part of the passage in Tertullian, it is true, but what he referred to as his great authority sent me to the East. These were confessedly the most ancient churches, but they are opposed to Rome. If I am in England and northern Europe or North America, the immense majority of professing Christians owning the Lord, and even active in propagating Christianity, denounce Rome as the corruptest body in existence. Where is this one church which has authority? You tell me Rome is one. One with what? In itself. So are the Greeks. Yet Rome is not more one, as we have seen, than Protestants; not on election; not on the authority of the pope; and not, till a year or two ago, on the immaculate conception; but especially not able to tell me where infallibility really resides.*

{*The Council of Rome, as all are aware, has settled this for those who own it; but proved it was not so settled for eighteen hundred years, as it was opposed by many prelates, and is publicly by many intelligent Roman Catholics still.}

James. My trust is in scripture as the word of God. I know it is in my soul, and you own it is the word of God, and it tells me to trust it, and that I ought to have the witness in myself, and I have: but I must say, Bill, though I know nothing of it of course myself, what Dr. Milner has insisted on all comes to nothing, and worse than nothing when it is examined. Nor have you any doctrine which you can refer to tradition when scripture says nothing. What I know of your doctrines, as purgatory, and the popes being successors of Peter, and worshipping the saints, is only a corruption of what is in scripture, or quite condemned by it. And then what you appeal to goes against you. Why did Dr. Milner leave out these other churches from the passage he quoted? They just knock up his argument.

78 M. Well, it is no good my arguing, or any of us. I had better bring Father O., and he will make it plain for you.

N*. By all means. We are just coming to a point of which Milner says nothing, and naturally would not — the difficulties of his own case. And you could not tell whether I was stating it correctly or not, and I suppose Mr. O. can: at any rate I will give the proofs. Hitherto we have only examined what Dr. Milner says, so that we wanted no one. We will meet then, again, to see if we can find the church, where it is, and where the infallibility is, which is to guide us. I will now say Good-day. Good evening to you both. May the Lord guide us into all truth.

James. Good evening, sir.