GENERAL PREFACE - Part III.
On reading the Holy Scriptures.
Scripture alone cannot be the whole rule of faith and life.
Liberty with regard to school opinions.
The sum of the New Testament.
ON READING THE HOLY SCRIPTURES.
The Catholic Church earnestly wishes that the truths and maxims of God's
word may be deeply impressed on the minds of all her children, says a learned prelate; and she requires of all her pastors,
from the highest to the lowest, as the most important of all their duties, to be unremittingly assiduous in inculcating this
word to the young and ignorant. To qualify themselves for fulfilling this obligation, she enjoins all her pastors constantly
to read and study the Holy Scriptures, which she has the merit of having preserved inviolate, during the many centuries that
have elapsed since their delivery. --- With respect to the laity, she never interdicted the Bible to them, as Protestants
suppose; but, at a time when cobblers and tailors were insulting heaven with their blasphemies, and convulsing the earth with
their seditions, all grounded on the misinterpretations of the Bible, she enjoined that such as took this mysterious book
in hand, should have received a tincture of learning, so as to be able to read it in one or other of the learned languages;
unless their respective pastors should judge from their good sense and good dispositions, that they would derive no mischief
from reading it in the vulgar tongue. (Reg. 4. Ind. Trid.) At present the Catholic prelates do not think it
necessary to enforce even this restriction, and accordingly Catholic versions are to be found in folio, quarto, and octavo,
with the entire approbation of those prelates.
One restriction is necessary still: not to give to the divine word any
other sense than what the universal Church has always given. Hence the saying --- Nil nisi quod traditum est. Quod ubique,
qoud semper, quod ab omnibus. From the old Church we receive the Bible, and with it the genuine sense, or interpretation of
the Bible. For want of an infallible tribunal, which Catholics acknowledge as always existing, and of divine origin, all that
dissent from this Church must necessarily harbour doubts as to the real sense of the sacred writings. Hence, a modern writer
presumes to offer canons or rules of his own, for the better interpretation of the Scriptures; because, as he says, whilst,
"Christians of almost every denomination profess to adopt the same Scriptures as the rule of faith and practice, they yet
draw, or seem to draw, from them conclusions widely different. Many causes, doubtless, contribute to this effect; and not,
perhaps, more that that corruption of our nature, which blinds the understanding, which in one man exalts itself against the
humbling truths of the gospel, and in another refuses obedience to its self-denying precepts. Still we find differences of
opinion, which exist between those who appear to believe with sincerity, and to study with candour, the revealed will of God;
differences which are, I think, to be traced in a considerable degree to a wrong method of interpreting the sacred writings."
This reasoning evidently shews the necessity of a visible and fixed authority.
Hence the amiable Fenelon, in his argument with Ramsay, says: "The Christian Church, without such a fixed and visible authority,
would be like a republic to which wise laws had been given, but without magistrates to look to their execution. What a source
of confusion this! "Each individual, with the book of laws in his hand, would dispute about their meaning. The sacred oracles,
in that case, would serve only to feed our vain curiosity, to increase our pride and presumption, and to make us more tenacious
of our own opinions. There would indeed be but one original text, but as many different manners of explaining it as there
are men. Divisions and subdivisions would multiply without end, and without remedy. Can we think that our Sovereign Lawgiver
has not provided better for the peace of his republic, and for the preservation of his law?"
If there be no infallible authority, which may say to us all, "this
is the true meaning of the holy Scripture: how can we expect that illiterate peasants, or simple mechanics, should engage
in a discussion wherein the learned themselves cannot agree? God would have been wanting to the necessities of almost all
men, if, when he gave them a written law, he had not at the same time provided them a sure interpreter, to spare them the
necessity of research, or which they are utterly incapable. Every man of common understanding has need of nothing more than
a sincere sense of his ignorance, to see the absurdities of the sects, who build their separation from the Catholic Church
upon the privilege of deciding on matters far above their comprehension. Ought we then to hearken to the new reformers, who
require what is impossible; or to the ancient Church, which provides for the weakness of our nature?" If we listen to the
former, we should soon be found to resemble those men of latter days, who St. Paul tells us to avoid: ever learning, and
never attaining to the knowledge of truth; (2 Timothy chap. iii. ver. 7,) because they trust to their own lights, and
not to the visible authority appointed by Jesus Christ. How evident does all this speak for itself, when we behold a Voltaire
extracting mental poison from the Song of Solomon; or, another Cromwell reading to a ruthless soldiery God's ordinances concerning
the smiting of the Ammonites and Chanaanites, in order to induce them to kill every Catholic, man, woman, and child; or the
fanatic, maintaining from the Revelations, that no king is to be obeyed but King Jesus; or, finally, when we hear those dangerous
comments of our modern Moravian and Antinomian Methodists on St. Paul's Epistles, importing, that they being made free by
Jesus Christ, are not subject to any law either of God or man. Surely, in such cases, it would be advisable, if possible,
to withdraw the Bible from every such profaner of it; and instead of it, to put into his hands the Catechism, in which he
would find the bread of God's word, broken and prepared for his weak digestion, by those prelates to whom this duty particularly
belongs. This the Protestant owns, when he finds the Socinian abusing private interpretation, by repeatedly citing and expounding
the sacred text against the divinity of Jesus Christ, and the Presbyterian against the episcopacy.
So direful are the effects of the very best things when abused, that Fenelon,
in his long and instructive answer to the bishop of Arras, on the promiscuous uses of Scripture, which occurs in his
spiritual works, (vol. iv, p. 228, ed. 1767,) says, "that he has not unfrequently found the greatest difficulty imaginable,
in rectifying erroneous notions, conceived by an improper and ill-digested perusal of the Holy Scriptures." --- He shews the
wisdom of the Jews, in portioning out parts of the sacred writings according to the abilities and discretion of the reader.
The beginning of the book of Genesis, certain parts of the prophet Ezechiel, and the Song of Solomon, were not allowed to
be read by any persons under 30 years of age. St. Jerome acted in the same manner with regard to young Lęta, p. 232. The good
archbishop then shews that, if in the early ages this precaution was necessary, it is infinitely more so in ours, (p. 270,)
when pastors have lost so much of their authority, and laics can set themselves up for judges; when persons read more through
a spirit of curiosity than of edification, more like proud dogmatizing philosophers, than meek and humble disciple. ... "Christians,"
concludes this great light and ornament of France, p. 272, "ought to be first taught the spirit of the Scriptures,
before they be permitted to read the letter of the Scriptures. These should only be placed in the hands of simple,
docile and humble souls, who are willing to feast upon them in silence, and not to argue, cavil and dispute about them, who
receive them from the Holy Catholic Church, and only wish to find the true and genuine sense, as expounded by this infallible
Church, which Jesus Christ commands us to hear."
We must, says Fenelon to Ramsay, submit to this Church, or reject the Bible
as a fiction. The prelate tells him to consult the sacred writings, to examine the extent of the promises made by Jesus Christ
to the Church and her pastors, the depository of his ordinances: Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth, shall be bound also
in heaven: that he will be with her till the end of the world; that the gates of hell shall not prevail against her; that
she is the pillar and ground of truth: and to her pastors he says, He who heareth you, heareth me; and he who despiseth
you, despiseth me. "You cannot," says the archbishop, "evade the force of these expression by any comments; you have no
remedy but in rejecting the authority both of the Lawgiver and of his law.
SCRIPTURE ALONE CANNOT BE THE WHOLE RULE OF FAITH AND LIFE.
The learned Walton (Prolegom. chap. iv. 56,) asserts, what every
one versed in antiquity must allow, that "some parts of the New Testament were doubted of for some ages, till at length by
consent of the whole Church, all the Books, as they are read at present, were received and approved." Here then we see that
for a chief proof of the inspiration, authenticity, and due rendering of the word of God, we are referred to the general consent
of Christians; therefore Scripture, though the rule of faith and life, cannot be the whole rule; since from Scripture
alone, an exact canon of the sacred books cannot by human art be learned. --- When we have, by common consent, come to an
understanding of what is Scripture, and what is not, even then in which Book of Scripture do we read a full and clear account
of infant baptism, or of the obligation of keeping holy the Sunday? But in vain shall we seek in particular parts of Scripture
what is not to be found in the whole Bible. In the divine law, like the law of the land, there is a lex scripta and a lex
non scripta. Blackstone's Commentaries, vol. i, sect. 3. --- Apostolic traditions are one part of the faith and life.
The apostles received it in commission from their divine Master, to preach the gospel to every living creature, and to
teach whatever he had commanded them; and we must suppose that such of the apostles as never committed their instructions
to paper, complied with the full import of their commission. St. Paul exhorts the Thessalonians to hold fast the traditions
he had taught them, whether by word or writing, 2 Thessalonians ii. 14. And he gives this rule to Timothy: The things which
thou hast heard of me before many witnesses, the same commit to faithful men, who shall be fit to teach others also, 2
Timothy ii. 2. --- The Church was Christian before the New Testament was written. See Romans i. 7. & 8.; 1 Corinthians
i. 2.; 1 Peter i. 2.; 3. Luke i. 4. And at this day, most persons settle their notions on religious subjects in an early period
of life, either before they read the Scriptures, or before they are capable of collecting the system of Christianity from
Scripture alone. And thoug a great deal is said of private spirit and gospel liberty of receiving and interpreting the Scripture
according to each one's private opinion, the many canons, articles, and restraining constitutions, are a standing demonstration
of the necessity of an authoritative interpreter of this rule of faith and life. The Catholic, then, convinced from St. Peter,
that no prophecy of Scripture is made by private interpretation, (2 Peter i. 19, 20,) and that in the Epistles of St.
Paul, there are some things hard to be understood, which the unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other
Scriptures, to their own destruction; (2 Peter iii. 16,) feels happy in being called upon by God to submit all to the
existing infallible tribunal, not because the obvious text is contrary to his tenets, and favourable to his adversaries; (for
the obvious sense of the words, this is my body, and the promise, my flesh is meat indeed; and again, hear the
Church; if he will not hear the Church, let him be to thee as the heathen and publican, &c. &c. &c. is
certainly conformable to the Catholic tenets,) but, because in submitting his weak judgment to the infallible authority of
the Church, which God has promised to direct into all truth, and to protect against all the powers of earth and hell, his
mind enjoys peace and security, which are no where else to be found or enjoyed. Again, if for argument sake, we omit the solemn
promises of Jesus Christ has made to his Church of infallibility and indefectibility, will not common sense and common prudence
tell us, that it is far safer to explain the Scripture in the sense in which it is at present understood by a vast majority
of Christians, and in which, for many hundreds of years, it was universally understood, than to receive the private interpretation
of a comparatively small number of dissenters; which, being founded on what is called evangelical liberty, and private spirit,
the constant source of disunion, can afford very little peace of mind or conscience. Hence both reason and religion satisfy
the Catholic, that, if he is to receive from the Catholic Church the canon and letter of the Scriptures, as handed down from
the primitive ages, so is he to receive from the same authority the once universally received interpretation of the text.
It is by obedience to this holy Catholic Church, which the apostles in their creed command us to believe; a Church fallible
of itself, but infallible by virtue of the promises of Jesus Christ, that we are to be no more tossed to and fro, and carried
about by every wind of doctrine. (Ephesians iv. 11. & 16.) This is the highway wherein the way-faring men,
though fools, shall not err. (Isaias xxxv. 8.) This is that way of which St. Jerome, in his comments on the v. and
vi. chap. of St. Matthew says: "Si a recta via paululum declinaveris, non interest, utrum ad dexteram vadas, an ad sinistram,
cum verum iter amiseris:" "if you decline ever so little from the true way, it is of no consequence whether you take to the
right or to the left hand, since you lose the true road." Hence the holy Catholic Church has, in every age, branded those
persons with the stigma of heretics, who like Luther and Calvin, have obstinately defended their own private and individual
sentiments in opposition to her solemn decisions.
LIBERTY WITH REGARD TO SCHOOL OPINIONS.
In the instructions of Archbishop Fenelon, printed at Cambray only the
year before he did, the learned and amiable prelate says: "I call God to witness, that in my whole conduct towards others,
I have made it my constant study never to take offence at the discordant opinions of men, but to bring them back by little
and little to the truth. I allow full liberty for school opinions, but I can admit of no mincing with regard to faith. Nothing
is so dangerous as false peace. I address my opponents in the words of St. Augustine to Pope Boniface, (2 ep. cont. Pelag.
lib. iii. chap. 11.) orent ut aliquando intelligant. Non litigent ut nunquam intelligant. I tell them with St. Paul, (1 Timothy
vi. 3.) If any man teach otherwise than the Church, and consent not to the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ,
and to that doctrine, which is according to godliness, he is proud, knowing nothing, though he appear to know all things,
but is sick about questions and strifes of words . ... If any man seem to be contentious, we have no such custom,
nor the Church of God. (1 Corinthians xi. 16.) Also the strong words of Tertullian, in his Book de Pręscrip. "that which
saves us in faith, and not arguing on Scriptures. Reasoning proceeds from curiosity ... curiosity must yield to faith, and
the glory of the knowledge of salvation ... To know nothing contrary to the rule which the Church gives us, is to know all
things." St. Augustine goes so far as to say: I would not believe the gospel, if the authority of the Catholic Church did
not determine me. (Epis. cont. Fund. chap. v, n. 6.) "This, says Fenelon, is the most simple, short, and decisive of all controversies."
With regard to those who are full of false prejudices, great moderation and tenderness must be shewn. Particularly, says St.
Augustine, when they are devoid of animosity and obstinacy, when they are not heresiarchs, but have imbibed false doctrines
from their parents, when they are earnest in seeking the truth, and ready to embrace it when found. (Ep. xlvvii. ad Glor.
et Eleus.) Such excellent characters held heretical tenets, but their hearts are not heretical: we cannot be too tender
in their regard. But there are few men so liberally instructed, as to work with success in undeceiving them. And they who
are qualified for the task, should undertake it by degrees, and with great delicacy and precaution. Above all things mistrust
ever bitter zeal. What wounds our pride, scarcely ever corrects our errors. The anger of men worketh no the justice of
God. We must spare our brethren the dangerous temptation of shame, and of appearing conquered. "Men, says Augustine, ordinarily
seek evasives to cloak their ignorance; for they are more jealous of the glory of the argument, than of the truth. Let this
be your only object, to avoid all ambition of victory, that God may be propitious to you in your researches." "Humble prayer
is no less useful, than vain dispute is dangerous. Be collected, mild, and peaceful. Love God, and his truth will appear amiable
in you. Edify your brethren, appease their irritated self-love. Give them to understand that the main point is not to dispute
on the efficacy of grace, but to yield to grace, in suffering ourselves, like little children, to be instructed by the Church."
But suffer not his charity to be mistaken for indifference. There is but one God, one faith, one baptism. (Ephesians iv. 5.)
And from indifference to doubt, from doubt to disbelief, the steps are almost imperceptible. Indifference saps most effectually
all religion, and is its greatest enemy.
This was the plan of Fenelon chalked out by others, the plan himself had
practiced with such astonishing success, and which he had learned of the amiable and admirable apostle of the Chablais, St.
Francis de Sales, who was accustomed to say, be always meek; "with a single spoonful of honey, you may attract more bees,
than a hundred barrels of vinegar." ... "If you lean to any extreme, let it be to that of meekness. There is no soil, however
barren, that will prove unproductive, if softened with the dew of meekness."
There are such inimitable instructions in the five letters of Fenelon,
to a lady who wished to be admitted a member of the Catholic Church, that a brief analysis of the same cannot but be very
acceptable to the biblical scholar: --- In the first, the prelate shews that there can be but one true religion, and one only
Church, the spouse of Jesus Christ. Our Lord would have only one; men are not entitled to make more. Religion is not the work
of human reasoning; but it is our duty to receive it, such as it has been given us from above. One man may reason with another
man, but with God we have only to pray, to humble ourselves, listen, be silent, and blindly follow. This sacrifice of reason
is the only proper use we can make of it, weak and contracted as it is. Every consideration must yield, when the supreme reason
decides. --- He recommends prayer, as the true end of all controversies; it humbles the soul, makes it docile and obedient,
and enables it to listen with fruit to the Holy Spirit. --- In the second, he shews the necessity of a visible authority.
Religion, he says, is all humility. The mysteries are given us to subdue the pride of reason, by making us believe what we
cannot comprehend. Without this authority, the Scripture can only serve to nourish our curiosity, presumption, jealousy of
opinions, and passion for scandalous disputes: there would be but one text, but as may interpretations as religions, and as
many religions as heads. What opinion could be formed of the wisdom of a legislator, who should leave an excellent code of
laws, but no authority to execute the laws; what revolutions and dissensions would follow! And can we suppose that Jesus Christ
would leave his spiritual kingdom unprovided, and abandoned to this disorder? --- In the third, he teaches how to hear the
Church, and to obey it without any apprehension of error. The infallible promises of God are our surety. He tells the lady,
if she wish for any reform, not to seek it, like Dissenters, out of the Church, but by frequently reverting back to her thoughts
upon herself, and by reforming every thing amiss there; by subduing all that savours of self; by silencing the imagination,
listening in silence to God, and imploring his grace for the perfect accomplishment of his will. O happy, O solid reform!
the more we practise this reform, the less we shall wish to reform the doctrines of the Church. --- In the fourth, he gives
her comfort and instructions how to act under her trials. The kingdom of God suffers violence. We cannot die to ourselves
without feeling it; but the hand that afflicts us, will be our support. Truth will free you from anxieties. You will then
become truly free, and enjoy the consolation of sacrificing to God your former prejudices. You will then find the truth of
God's word: learn of me, for I am, &c. and you will find peace to your soul. --- In the fifth, he give excellent
instructions, on the promises of Jesus Christ to his one true Church. He remarks the Jesus Christ does not say, if you will
not hear the church of this country or that; he does not suppose a plurality of churches, but one universal Church, subsisting
through all ages and nations, and which is to speak and to be obeyed from one extremity of the globe to the other. Not an
invisible church composed of the elect only, but a Church that can be pointed out with a finger. A city elevated on the summit
of a mountain, which all can see from a distance. Every one knows where to see, to find, and to consult her. She answers,
she decides; we listen, and believe: and woe to those who refuse to believe and obey her: if he will not hear the Church,
&c. --- A father could not bear to see his son, under the pretext of reform, making parties in his family; and can our
heavenly Father, who loves union, and who gives this distinctive mark to his children, suffer without indignation any
unnatural children to split his family, which he has endeavoured to cement with his own blood in the bond of unity. Schism,
then, which constitutes many churches, whilst God will acknowledge only one, is the greatest of crimes; it is that of Core,
Dathan, and Abiron, who wished to divine and split the sacred ministry. --- In vain do our adversaries object, that the Church
has fallen into error. Had it been possible for the visible Church to have been one single day idolatrous and false, God would
never have ordered all, without any the least limitation, to hear and obey the Church. Going therefore, says
Jesus Christ to his then infant Church, teach ye all nations, baptizing them, &c. teaching them to observe all
things whatsoever I have commanded you, and behold I am with you all days, even to the end of the world. (Matthew xxviii.
Can a sincere Christian then hesitate whether in expounding doctrinal points
of Holy Scripture, he ought to yield to that authority which was given by Jesus Christ to the body of pastors, and which they
have uniformly exercised for eighteen centuries? With St. Augustine he would exclaim: to question the authority of the Church,
is the height of either impiety or arrogance. Ecclesię nolle primas dare, vel summę profecto impietatis est, vel precipitis
arrogantię. (lib. de util. credendi. chap. 17.)
Let us then take up these sacred pages with respect and gratitude; let
us read them with a docile and religious frame of mind, and feast our souls thereon, firmly believing that the Bible is the
production not of man, but of God. What a consolation this for our faith, to have such a foundation as cannot possibly
be moved! What joy for our hope, to be no less certain of the truth and security of the gospel promises, than if we
were to hear them at present from the mouth of Truth incarnate! What aid to our charity, to be certain of finding in
this adorable book, the Mediator, without whom we could never have been reconciled with God; the Way, without which we could
never go to him; the Guide, who alone can conduct us to him; the Light, out of which all is darkness; the Victim, in whose
blood we are to be washed; the Priest, always living, always present, always acting for us before the face of God; the Master,
whom we are to hear; the Model, upon which we are to frame our lives; the Example of every virtue, which is to make us resemble
our head; in a word, the adorable Head, the principle of life, of faith, and of grace in all his members; the Sovereign Judge,
both of the living and the dead.
The following most excellent Prayers are recommended to the frequent repetition of persons of all denominations and sects whatsoever, who
in sincerity of heart wish to arrive at the knowledge of the one, only, true, and saving Faith, without which it
is impossible to please God, and consequently obtain eternal happiness.
I. O Lord, I humbly beseech thee to teach me thy true religion, that
leads to everlasting happiness, through Jesus Christ, thy Son, our Lord. Amen.
II. O Lord, I humbly beseech thee to guide me to that form of religion
which is most pleasing to the for me to follow upon earth, in order to fulfil thy will here, and obtain everlasting happiness
hereafter, in the name of Jesus Christ thy Son. Amen.
III. Almighty and eternal God, Father of Mercies, Saviour of Mankind,
I humbly intreat thee, by thy sovereign goodness, to enlighten my mind and touch my heart, that by true faith, hope, and charity,
I may live and die in the true religion of Jesus Christ. I am sure, that, as there is but one true God, so there can be but
one faith, one religion, one way of salvation, and that every other which is opposite to this, can only lead to endless misery.
It is this faith, O my God! which I earnestly desire to embrace, in order to save my soul. I protest, therefore, before thy
divine attributes, that I will follow that religion which thou shalt shew me to be true; and that I will abandon, at whatever
cost, that in which I shall discover error and falsehood; I do not deserve, it is true, this favour, on account of my sins,
for which I have a profound sorrow, because they offend a God so good, so great, so holy and worthy of my love; but what I
do not deserve, I hope to obtain from thy infinite mercy, and I conjure thee to grant, through the merits of the precious
blood which was shed for us poor sinners, by thy only begotten Son, Jesus Christ. Amen.
IV. Have compassion on me, O God, and mercifully deliver me from the perplexity
in which I am; help me and direct me to know and fulfil thy will. To thee I appeal for the sincerity of my desires, to thee
are open the secrets of my heart; thou knowest my desire is to find thee, to do thy holy will in embracing those truths which
my blessed Redeemer and his apostles taught, and commanded the whole world to hear and believe; for while thou hast so positively
declared thy displeasure, as to pronounce those condemned who believe them not, I am sensible how much it is my interest to
Direct me, therefore, I beseech thee, and in whatever communion these they
truths are taught, lead me to it, and give me grace to become a member of it. As thou didst shew mercy to Cornelius, and direct
him to Peter, as thou didst shew mercy to Saul, and send him to Ananias, so, likewise, O God, shew mercy to me, and so order
things, that by the effect of thy providence, I may find such, thy servants, by whom thy truths may be communicated to me.
Hear my prayer, O God, in this great affair of eternity, and so temper
my soul by thy grace, that with all earnestness and perseverance, I may seek thy truths, and submit to them, that while I
seek them I may not be obstinate against them; in order to this, I beseech thee, to take from me all blindness and corruption
of judgment, let no kind of interest, worldly consideration, or human respect whatsoever, bias me in my soul's concern,
nor education, nor affection, prevail against truth, nor suffer any earthly thing to keep me out of the way to heaven; for
what will it avail me to gain the world, and lose my soul. (Matthew chap. xvi, ver. 26.)
Assist me, therefore, most merciful Father, in this purpose which
I have before me. Give me understanding and courage as the affair requires, and suffer me not to be deluded, but let my whole
desire be to find thee and to do thy will. Stand by me, O God, and be thou my guide, for thus only can I come to thee, to
the knowledge of those divine truths thou requirest all to know and believe. Amen.
Jeremias, 6th chap. and 16th verse --- Thus saith the Lord: Stand ye in
the ways and see, and ask for the old paths, which is the good way, and walk ye in it, and you shall find refreshment for
The Saviour of the world says, ask and ye shall receive, seek
and ye shall find, knock and it shall be opened unto you. --- Oh! that men would therefore thus heartily pray
and diligently seek; no doubt they would find it. --- How can persons plead invincible ignorance, who are resolved
not to examine for fear of giving themselves any trouble or uneasiness; who sit down contented with the opinion in which they
have been educated, right or wrong, industriously avoiding all such books and conversation as might better inform them?
It was the will of Jesus Christ that the history of his life, and the abridgment
of the instructions he have to men, should be transmitted down to us by four different Evangelists, who are like four witnesses;
two of whom depose to what they have seen, St. Matthew and St. John; the other two depose to what they have learned
and heard, St. Mark and St. Luke. All the four follow the impulse of the Spirit, which enables them to discern the truth
to which they bear witness, and which furnishes them with the expressions and with the facts, which they are appointed to
record. They wrote at different periods, and in different places; and it seems to have been the wise design of an all-protecting
Providence, that they should not follow the same order in their narratives, nor exactly the same expressions. This apparent
disagreement obviates the objection of collusion, which in other circumstances would undoubtedly have been urged by unbelievers,
to destroy or weaken the divine book; they have composed harmonies, in which they shew that every real difficulty and
apparent contradiction, which surprises the smatterer in biblical knowledge, and seems to weaken and almost stagger his faith
in the inspiration of the Holy Scriptures, to the man who unites in himself humility, piety, and erudition, is easily and
satisfactorily reconcileable. We shall, in the notes upon the text, give some of these difficulties, with their solutions.
--- 'Tis for the reader to judge of the execution of the work; but it is for God to give his blessing to the performance,
that it may produce the desired and expected fruit; for neither he who planteth, nor he who watereth, is any thing; it is
God only who can give the increase. Let every one, then, that takes up these sacred oracles, which contain, "the words of
eternal life," look up to heaven for light and grace, that he may not only read but understand, and may be enabled from above
to practise in himself what he is taught therein. Let him first endeavour to correct the corruption of his nature, which blinds
the understanding, exalts itself against the humbling truths of the gospel, and refuses obedience to its self-denying precepts,
which can only be effected by a sincere and feeling conviction of our own nothingness, and by prayer, made with humility,
confidence and perseverance; and he will soon discover that faith is essentially necessary to please God; that this faith
is but one, as God is but one; (Ephesians iv. ver. 4. & 5,) and that faith, which does not shew itself by good works is
dead. Hence, when St. Paul speaks of works that are incapable of justifying us, he speaks not of the works of moral righteousness,
which are certainly availing in virtue of their being united to and sanctified by the infinite merits of Jesus Christ, but
of the Mosaic law, on which the self-conceited Jews laid such great stress, as necessary to , and efficient of, eternal salvation.
THE SUM OF THE NEW TESTAMENT.
"That which was the sum of the Old Testament, viz. Christ and his Church,
as St. Augustine affirms, (de cat. rudibus. chap. iii. iv.) the very same is the sum of the New Testament also" Again, in
his work upon Exodus, he says: "In the Old Testament there is the occultation of the New; and in the New, the manifestation
of the Old." --- "In the Old doth the New lie hidden; and in the New doth the Old lie open. Hence our Saviour declared: I
am not come to destroy the law or the prophets. I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. For, amen, I say unto you, till heaven
and earth pass, one jot, or one tittle shall not pass of the law till all be fulfilled." B. Huetius draws up the sum of
his evangelical demonstration, in a series of connected propositions, each of which he proves most satisfactorily to every
rational enquirer after truth, thus: The Books of the Old and New Testament were written at the period and by the persons
to whom they are attributed. Hence it follows, that the whole history of Jesus of Nazareth, was foretold in the Old, long
before it happened in the New Testament. This then being ceded, that the Books of the Old and New Testament were written at
the period and by the persons to whom they are attributed, and that the prophecies of Jesus of Nazareth in the Old Testament
were realized in the New, the consequence is, that the Books of the New and of the Old Testament are true. Now, if the prophecies
of the Old Testament relative to Jesus of Nazareth, are completed in the New, and the Books of both the Old and New Testament
are true, it follows that Jesus of Nazareth is the Messiah. Again, if this be allowed, it must certainly be allowed that the
Christian religion is true. If this be true, all others must be false: Though we, or an angel from heaven preach a gospel
to you besides that which we have preached to you, let him be anathema. (Galatians i. 8.) --- The learned author brings
together, to perfect his historic demonstration, such a group of events, of prophecies, of figures; a picture of connections
so multipled and so self-evident; in a word, a whole so perfectly connected in all its parts, that the demonstration is complete
of itself, without passing through the trammels of syllogistic forms and figures.