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nish the means for the rectification of their own faults, and the detection of their own mistakes: that they may not err, even as grievously as the Romish Church, we cannot decisively pronounce; but they can never err irretrievably, so long as they make their ultimate reference to the Bible as paramount to all human authority.
But the vehement and successful struggle against the usurped authority of the Church and of tradition seems to have produced, as indeed was to be expected, a strong reaction. The very name of tradition, from being associated with the abuses to which it had been made subservient, became odious; and some of those who had escaped from the unauthorised and unbounded pretensions of the popish hierarchy, seemed no longer to regard the Christian Church as a community established by the founder of our religion, and endowed by Him with authority and privileges, but as a mere name applicable to any collection of individuals who might think fit voluntarily to associate for the purposes of religious instruction and public devotion.
These notions are by no means obsolete in the present day. The important maxim, that the Bible and the Bible only, is the religion of Protestants, is eagerly cited by many, as an argument that men ought to be left to make out, every one for himself, a system of belief from the Scriptures; that consequently the circulation of the Scriptures alone, without note or comment, is not only a sufficient but is the only justifiable mode of religious instruction; and that the education of children in any particular mode of faith is an attempt unduly to bias their minds, to derogate from the authority of the Bible, and to limit the free exercise of reason.
Without entering into the questions which have been so often discussed, respecting the proper mode of national religious instruction, both for children and adults, it is important to remark that the total rejection or depreciation of all tradition, and the habit of regarding the Scriptures as not only the sole authority in matters of faith, but also the only proper medium for attaining religious knowledge, gives weight to a difficulty, which may raise doubts, in some instances, respecting Christianity itself, and in many more, concerning the truth of its most fundamental doctrines: this difficulty is found in the want of systematic form in the instruction which Scripture furnishes, and the oblique and incidental manner in which many of what are usually regarded as its most important truths, are conveyed to us.
Why, it may be asked, are many of the most important articles of faith rather implied than taught; why have we to learn them in great measure from incidental notices of them in books wi en upon particular occasions, controversies, or heresies, many of them long since passed away,
away, whilst some men have erred through ignorance of these particulars, and some have been at times perplexed although they have embraced the truth, and some have missed altogether that faith in which all are most concerned to live? Why this difficulty, they ask, when more direct and systematic statements of the main points of faith might have been with equal ease delivered by the same authority, and would of course, from believers, have met with implicit veneration?'-p. 1.
To encounter this difficulty, is the primary object of the work before us; though the course of the argument is such as to embrace incidentally several other points of no less interest.
The difficulty in question is, indeed, as Mr. Hawkins acknowledges, by no means universally felt; and accordingly he is at some pains clearly to point it out. This, however, is a circumstance by no means peculiar to the present case. Dr. Paley remarks, in the preface to his Moral Philosophy,' that 'in discoursing to young minds upon topics of morality, it requires much more pains to make them perceive the difficulty, than to understand the solution; that unless the subject be so drawn to a point, as to exhibit the full force of an objection, or the exact place of a doubt, before any explanation is entered upon,-in other words, unless some curiosity be excited before it is attempted to be satisfied, the labour of the teacher is lost.' But it is more especially necessary here, to put forward the difficulty in a distinct and prominent form, from its peculiar liability to be overlooked, in consequence of the mode in which most Christians have actually acquired their own religious
Thoroughly convinced by the authority of Scripture, they may not have attended strictly to the process by which their own conviction of the truth of the Christian doctrines has been established; although resting them entirely upon Scriptural authority, they may not have first collected them solely and immediately from the Scriptures. Hence they may not have observed, that the various proofs of a given doctrine have been accumulated perhaps from the parts of the sacred volume the most unconnected apparently with each other; that one text occasionally of the greatest importance towards their conviction, had no force at all in that respect until compared with another, and that perhaps with a third, each separately incapable of bearing upon the point in question, but all together composing an indissoluble argument, of so much the more force indeed, as it precludes the possibility of forgery and interpolation.'-p. 2.
It is hardly necessary to observe that the indirect manner in which particular doctrines are taught in Scripture, and also the irregularity and want of system in the delivery of the whole body of them, are circumstances which it is highly important to point out to those who have never been troubled with scruples arising from this cause; they cannot otherwise be properly aware of the im
pression which the Scriptures are likely to make on the minds of those who may chance to have no access to any other means of religious instruction; and consequently, will be liable to commit errors and to incur disappointments, in the most benevolent and laudable of all pursuits, the endeavour to diffuse Christianity.
Mr. Hawkins proceeds to notice several circumstances which either have been brought forward, or may suggest themselves as solutions of the difficulty:
'To attempt to meet the difficulty by detailing the circumstances under which the several books of the New Testament were composed is by no means satisfactory; for however natural and just the method of them may thus be made to appear with respect to the then Christian churches or converts, the question still remains-how is such a style or method suited to our wants, which must be supposed to have been equally in the contemplation of the Divine Author of the Scriptures? how can these writings be the best adapted to convey satisfactory information upon doctrinal points to Christians now, or in succeeding ages?
Nor will it suffice to answer, that we are frequently obliged to gather the sentiments of other writers, (the heathen philosophers for example) from a careful examination and comparison of their works; that we thus become satisfied what their sentiments were; and why not then submit to the same mode in ascertaining the opinions of the sacred writers?'-p. 6.
There is indeed this essential distinction between the inspired writers and all others whatever; that the former cannot be supposed to have been on any occasion either unable, or (as is said of some of the ancient philosophers) unwilling, to make known with perfect clearness to ordinary capacities, those truths at least which they considered as fundamentally important. And yet, with respect to many of these, the alleged indirectness and want of arrangement is sufficiently manifest upon a candid investigation. Men are apt, however, (as the author has well remarked,) very greatly to underrate the difficulty of arriving at any truth, when once it has been clearly ascertained; as he instances in the existing systems of astronomy and of political economy. And in the present case, it is only by calm reflection and careful examination, that one who is well instructed in the Christian doctrines can be enabled adequately to judge of the difficulty which an ordinary reader would find in eliciting for himself, from the bare perusal of the sacred volume, without any previous instruction, the same clear and connected view of the subject.
This difficulty, however, it would be an affront to reason and to revelation to disguise or to shrink from, (even if no complete solution of it could be offered,) as if it afforded any valid objection against Christianity.
There is surely little cause to refrain from any argument calculated to benefit the believer, when the cavils to which it may give occasion cannot possibly amount to an objection to Revelation itself without the grossest presumption, or most culpable ignorance on the part of the objecter. For the difficulty in question is no objection; it has long since been unanswerably shewn, that no objection can lie against Revelation on account of any alleged obscurity, or partial discovery of its truths, which does not equally lie against the tenets of pure deism.'-p. 12.
'But with respect to the believer it might be wrong indeed to hazard presenting a new difficulty to his mind, were there not some reason from experience to believe that those, who have not felt the difficulty before, are not likely to feel it long; whilst of course the inquiry would not have been proposed; did it not seem calculated to lead to results satisfactory perhaps at once to some who have laboured under the difficulty assumed, and in their consequences also, not uninteresting to all believers in Christianity.'-p. 13.
We most cordially agree with Mr. Hawkins in regarding tradition as furnishing a satisfactory solution of the difficulty in question, by supplying precisely that kind and degree of aid that is needed, in the acquisition of religious knowledge. The persons to whom the Apostolic Epistles (the grand repository of Christian doctrines) were addressed, were Christians-had already been catechetically instructed with great care, in the outlines and rudiments at least of the Christian faith, and had among them ministers formally appointed for the express purpose (among others) of keeping up, and diffusing, and transmitting, by oral instruction, the faith once delivered to the saints.' This circumstance not only accounts most fully for the incidental and unsystematic mention, in these Epistles, of the elementary doctrines of Christianity, but also points out to all succeeding Christians what course they ought to adopt, whenever it is practicable, for maintaining and propagating those doctrines the Christians of the Apostolic age transmitted to their posterity, together with the inspired writings which alone possess authority, that systematic traditional instruction which the Scriptures do not afford: ample provision has been made for the continuance of the same system in all succeeding ages; and there seems to be no just reason why it should not be thus continued. Men of the present day are not fairly put on a level with those to whom the Apostolic Epistles were addressed, if the same sacred volume is placed in the hands of both parties, but the advantage of regular instruction, which was enjoyed by one, is denied to the other.
The Romish doctrine concerning tradition is perfectly distinct from that here inculcated. Mr. Hawkins, indeed, has used every possible precaution to keep this distinction clearly in view, by the
expression of unauthoritative tradition, and by a plain exposition of the erroneous and of the true doctrines.
'We perceive that traditions may be contradictory to the Scriptures, and thus we absolutely reject them; or they may be unsupported by the Scriptures, and then we allow them no further, than as they coincide with the dictates of reason; or they may be supported by the sacred writings, and then we respect them as the original sentiments of the first believers-as derived indeed from the true and only authority.'-p. 20.
Nevertheless, we have no doubt that some will be inclined to feel a prejudice against tradition, from the unwarrantable application of it by the Romish Church: never, while the world lasts, will the inconsiderate and the violent be prevented from confounding together things which differ only in the point which is of most essential importance, or from indiscriminately censuring whatever has been much abused. Nor is this objection confined to the mere name of tradition; (in which case the author would have been to blame for giving needless offence by adopting it;) but to the very plan itself of elementary religious instruction. We have already adverted to the vehement reaction produced by the tyranny of the Church of Rome, through the well-known propensity of mankind to rush from one extreme into the other. The natural transition of error was from a blind obedience to the authority of tradition, and acquiescence in all that load of additions to Christianity which were thus introduced, to a total rejection of the legitimate use of tradition, and an indiscriminate contempt and aversion towards all formularies, catechisms, creeds, articles, and religious establish
We need hardly remind our readers of the declamations which are current in the present day against the iniquity of giving a bias to the minds of young persons, by teaching them our own interpretation of the sacred volume, instead of leaving them to investigate for themselves; that is, against endeavouring to place them in the same situation with those to whom those very Scriptures were written, instead of leaving them to struggle with difficulties which the Scriptures no where contemplate nor provide against. The maintainers of such a principle would do well to consider whether it would not, if consistently pursued, prove too much. Do you not, it might be asked, bias the minds of children by putting into their hands the Scriptures themselves, as the infallible word of God? If you are convinced that they are so, you must be sure that they will stand the test of unprejudiced inquiry: are you not at least bound in fairness to teach them at the same time the systems of ancient mythology, the doctrines of the Koran, and those of modern philosophers, that they may freely chuse amongst all? Let any one who is disposed to deride the absurdity of such a proposal,