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Introductory Statement.

APOSTOLIC antiquity, and unbending immutability, are the peculiar boast of the church of Rome.

I. So far as bare ecclesiastical existence is concerned, no person will be disposed to controvert its apostolic antiquity; for Scripture itself bears witness to the fact of its existence, even while the great Evangelist of the gentiles was still alive; and, according to the competent testimony of Irenæus, it was founded by persons of no less dignity than the two most glorious Apostles, Peter and Paul, who by their joint authority, constituted Linus its first bishop. But the fact of its alleged immutability rests upon a foundation by no means equally secure. Whatever is first, says Tertullian, is true; whatever is more recent is spurious.†


To the severe test of this primitive canon, we must ultimately bring the lofty pretensions of the Latin church. The real question is not, whether many of its doctrines and practices be not of very remote antiquity; but the real question is, whether they can claim such antiquity as reaches to the age of approving apostolic authority. Unless a chain. can be constructed, which shall bind the modern church of Rome to the primitive church of Christ, the mere comparative antiquity of its peculiar doctrines and practices will assuredly avail nothing.

*Iren. adv. Hær. lib. iii. c. 3.

Tertull. adv. Prax. § ii. p. 405.


The connecting link will be wanted: and, let such doctrines and such practices have been introduced when they may, still, since they cannot be shown to have existed from the beginning, they stand convicted of novelty; and, on that specific ground, they must, agreeably to the canon of Tertullian, be rejected as spurious.

If the claim of immutability from the very age of the Apostles could, indeed, be substantiated, every dissident from the Latin church would forthwith incur the just charge of manifest heresy. But here lies the grand difficulty of Romanism: a claim is preferred, which never has been, and which never can be, substantiated. The very circumstance of such a claim having been preferred, brings the whole matter to a question of naked historic fact; and, by the resolution of that question, the church of Rome is clearly found guilty of innovation.

II. In considering the difficulties attendant upon the Latin system of theology, I should be sorry to appear in the light of a captiour and unfais objector. I wish to give the system every advantage; and, for that purpose, I would select as my text-book, not the unfavourable representation of a protestant controversialist, but the flattering delineation of a professed Roman advocate. Certainly, it is the most equitable to hear a Latin plead his own cause, and exhibit his own scheme of doctrine; nor is such a plan less advantageous than equitable. If, when the cause as pleaded by himself shall have been fairly heard, the difficulties of his system still appear insurmountable, he can have no reason to complain of having experienced controversial injustice. Meanwhile, if that system shall prove to be untenable, even when managed by all the dexterity of a practised advocate, what must be the condition of such a scheme, when viewed through a less flattering medium?

III. The composition which I have chosen as my text-book, is a very able work, recently published by

the present excellent Bishop of Aire, under the title of "An Amicable Discussion respecting the Anglican church in particular, and the Reformation in general."*

In an epistle prefixed to it, this important work is dedicated to the clergy of all the Protestant communions; but it is specially addressed, in the form of letters, to an English traveller, who is described by the bishop as having stated to him certain doubts that had sprung up in his mind, with respect to the canonical legitimacy of his own church, and as having requested him to facilitate his honest research after theological truth. The desire of the traveller, whether real or fictitious, is granted; and the production of the bishop's work is the consequence.

IV. Of this work the main object is evidently the proselytism of the English laity. Such being the case, it was necessary, on the one hand, to attack the principles and the authority of the Anglican church: while, on the other hand, it was equally necessary to vindicate and to recommend the peculiar doctrines and practices of the church of Rome.

A work of this description I judged to be singularly adapted to the purpose which I had in view.

The respectable author of the Amicable Discussion is a prelate of the Latin church: he has undertaken to exhibit the peculiarities of his communion. as they really exist, not as they are alleged to have

* Discussion Amicale sur l'Eglise Anglicane et en général sur la Réformation, dédiée au Clergé de toutes les Communions Protestantes, et rédigée en forme de Lettres, par Monseigneur L'Evêque d'Aire. A Paris, chez Potey, Rue de Bac, No. 46.— Let me be permitted to remark, that it is not merely the talent evinced in this publication which is likely to give it success; the personal character of the bishop himself must, of necessity, with all those who are fortunate enough to enjoy his acquaintance, add a tenfold weight to his writings. His character, says the English gentleman who transmitted to me his work from France, is well known here; he is one of the very best of men. I deem it a privilege to adopt the work of such a man as my text-book.


been disfigured by protestant misrepresentation; and in his high episcopal character, he may be viewed as one who speaks with a full measure both of knowledge and of authority. Under the hands of the exemplary Bishop of Aire, Romanism appears in its most captivating habiliments: whatever might offend the prejudices of an English layman is gracefully and decorously explained: doctrines and practices, which he had been taught to view with unutterable dislike, are shown, on the professed score of primitive antiquity, to be not only innocent, but even venerable and obligatory: and that alone catholic church, which the distempered imagination of panicstruck protestantism had pourtrayed as a misshapen and ferocious monster, proves, upon a candid examination, to be no other than a meek and harmless Hind.* If, then, Romanism, even as exhibited by such an advocate as the Bishop of Aire, still presents insuperable difficulties, the sober laic inquirer will at least pause, before he ventures to adopt a theological system thus unhappily circumstanced.

Nor did I deem the work useful to me solely on the ground of its professedly giving a true and ungarbled statement of the Latin faith. Since it attacks the church of England no less than it vindicates the church of Rome, I am thence enabled, by the aid of this valuable text-book, at once to point out the difficulties of Romanism, and to place before the eyes of the English laic the impregnable ground on which his own truly apostolic church has taken her lofty station.

The rest amazed,

Stood mutely still, and on the stranger gazed;
Surveyed her part by part; and sought to find
The ten-horn'd monster in the harmless Hind,
Such as the wolf and panther had design'd.

DRYDEN'S Hind and Panther, Part i.

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