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epistles “ there are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable, wrest, as they do also the other Scriptures, to their own destruction.”
How then is this danger to be avoided ?
By taking the meaning and interpretation of the Scripture from the same hand from which we received the book itself, that is, from the Church?
Why may not every particular Christian have liberty to interpret the Scripture according to his own private judgment, without regard to the interpretation of the Church ?
1st. Because “ no prophecy of the scripture is of private interpretation," 2 Pet. i. 20. 2dly. Because as men's judgments are as different as their faces, such liberty as this must needs produce as many religions almost as men. 3dly. Because Christ has left his church and her pastors and teachers to be our guides, in all controversies relating to religion, and consequently in the understanding of holy writ. Ephes. iv. 11, 12, &c. “ He gave some apostles, and some prophets, and some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come in the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ. That we may henceforth be no more children tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the slight of men and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things which is the head, even Christ.” Hence St. John, in his first epistle, chap. iv. 6, gives us this rule for the trying of spirits: “He that knoweth God, heareth us,” (the pastors of the church)," he that is not of God, heareth not us: by this we know the spirit of truth, and the spirit of error.”
Why does the church, in her profession of faith, oblige her children never to take or interpret the scripture otherwise than according to the unanimous consent of the holy Fathers ?
To arm them against danger of novelty and error. Prov. xxii. 28: “ Remove not the ancient land-mark which thy fathers have set."
Were it not that the tenets of Popery teach men to reconcile the most palpable contradictions, it would seem strange that whilst the Scriptures are acknowledged to be the “ infallible word of God,” they should be withheld from general perusal by those who so profess to believe them, and who call themselves God's Vicegerents upon earth.-We are next told that these Scriptures are not clear in the points necessary to
salvation ; and St. Peter is quoted to prove, that those who are unstable, wrest them to their own destruction," and again, to show that “no prophecy of the Scriptures is of private interpretation ;” a long passage follows from Paul's Epistle to the Ephesians, a brief extract from St. John, concluding with a line from Proverbs.
In the first place, as the Pope has not shown us any command of Christ, or his Apostles, that the Scriptures are not to be read—and as common sense would naturally imagine that they were bequeathed to mankind for that purpose—we will prove to Papists, that it is not only lawful but obligatory to read them. The chapter from which the extract from Peter is made, is an epistle on the certainty of CARIST's coming to judgment; and of which, he says, Paul, in all his epistles, had apprised those to whom he addressed himself. But he does not tell them that they should not read the writings of Paul (which, in the very verse referred to he classes among the other Scriptures); and who but Papists will suppose he did not intend they should read the epistles he wrote himself ? That the Scriptures are hard to be understood, as Popery has perverted them, we admit; nor can there be a clearer proof of the way in which they may be “ wrested” to particular purposes than as they appear before us in these passages selected by Pius IV., and of which the very next quotation is a positive proof. When Peter says, “ that no prophecy of the Scripture is of any private interpretation,” is there one Popish priest so ignorant as not to know that it has no allusion to reading the gospel? Did not the Pope know that it alluded to the gift of prophecy coming from God; without which (gift) no man could interpret, or foretel, His great designs? If the Pope did not so understand it, nor Dr. Challoner, they should have read the succeeding verse, which would have explained it to them : v. 21, “For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man; but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost." What is there necessary to salvation that the Scriptures do not teach, or what can be necessary to salvation that is not to be found therein? They would instruct their readers to trust in Christ, and to abandon Popery-and hence the cause why Popery forbids them to be read. Thank God, the days are past when the crime of teaching the Lord's prayer in our own country in English subjected him who was guilty of it to popish vengeance !-as was the case so lately as in the beginning of the reign of Henry VIII.*
As the next extract, “ He gave some apostles, and some prophets, and some evangelists,” &c. has not anything to do with the question of depriving the laity of the benefits and comforts of Scripture; and as we are not prepared to admit that the Popish clergy are either apostles, prophets, or evangelists, we refer our readers to the chapter quoted, wherein they will find that Paul says, “Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth,” &c. John (ch. iv. v. 3.) says, “that the spirit of Anti-Christ was then in the world,” The extract, v. 6, is correct (except the “pastors of the Church"); but why not have given the two following verses ? The 7th says, “ love is of God;" and the 8th, “ He that loveth not is not of God; for God is love." This Christian love is of a very different kind to that fervour which kindles the faggot and forces the victim on the rack. As to the proverb against removing the land-mark, any other proverb might, we think, as well have been taken by chance, and would have been as properly applied. The chapter treats of “ good name:" it contains (v. 8) this passage,~“ He that soweth iniquity shall reap vanity, and the rod of his anger shall fail.”
But we will now show that it is not only incumbent upon all Christians to read the Scriptures, but also to exercise their
* “If any taught their children the Lord's Prayer, the ten commandments, and the Apostles' Creed in the vulgar tongue, that was crime enough to bring them to the stake," --Burnett's Hist, Ref. vol. i. p. 31,
own judgment. Throughout the whole doctrine taught by Christ himself, he always refers the unbelievers to the Old Testament for proof of the prophecies concerning his own appearance and divine mission on earth, thus : “ For it is written,"_"Have ye not read in the Scriptures," &c.; and we now, in the first place, appeal to the commonest understanding, if it can be voluntarily imagined that our Saviour, who recommended a perusal of the old law, would forbid the publication or the reading of his owN WORDS and ACTIONS ? Upon this single point we shall be somewhat more copious in our scriptural extracts than usual ; since, would the Romish clergy but allow the Scriptures to be generally read by their followers, as they have been handed down to us—i. e. without any additions, subtractions, and interpolations of their own, sure we are (and so are their priests also) that the impurities which disfigure their worship, in direct opposition to Christianity, would very soon be dispelled as a vapour by the sun.
We will commence with a few quotations from the Old Testament, for the purpose of proving to such Romanists as may be induced to peruse these pages, that the prophets taught the necessity of publishing the old law to the people, generally, as did Christ and his apostles command the diffusion of the New*.
Deut. xi. 18. “ Therefore, shall ye lay up these my words in your heart and in your soul,” &c.
19. “ And ye shall teach them your children, speaking of them when thou sittest in thine house,” &c.
Josh. viii. 34. “And afterwards he read all the words of the law,” &c.
35. “There was not a word of all that Moses
When Christ foretold the destruction of the Temple of Jerusalem and the persecutions of his Apostles, the latter asked him when these things should be? To whom he replied (Mark xiii. ver. 10), “The Gospel must first be published among all nations,". i. e. to all the nations of the then known world.
commanded which Joshua read not before all the congregation of Israel, with the women and the little ones, and the strangers that were conversant among them.”
Isaiah viii. 20. “To the law and to the testimony, if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.”
These few brief extracts from innumerable others which might be quoted, of similar import, are sufficient to prove that the Jewish priests were not to make the old law subservient to their own purposes. We will now show that the Popish Church is opposed to the Scriptures, and therefore unholy in her doctrine in prohibiting the laity from receiving the inestimable blessings conferred by the instruction of the Gospel.
John, ch. v. 39. “ Search the Scriptures, for in them ye think ye have eternal life, and they are they which testify of
2d Timothy, ch. iii. v. 13, 14, 15. « But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived; but continue thou in the things thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them, and that, from a child, thou hast known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation, through faith which is in Jesus Christ.” Gal. ch. vi. v. 4. “But let every man prove
“But let every man prove his own work, and then shall he have rejoicing in himself alone and not in another.”
Matt. ch. vii. v. 7. “Ask and it shall be given to you; seek and ye shall find; knock and it shall be opened unto you.'
2d Cor. ch. xiii. v. 5. “ Examine yourselves whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves."
Acts, ch. xvii. v. 11. “These [the men of Berea] were more noble than those of Thessalonica, in that they received