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was given. At one time to Peter, Matt. xvi. 19, and subsequently to all the apostles, Matt. xviii. 18. It was given therefore to inspired men only; it could be safely given to none else ; and accordingly we are nowhere told that they should have the power of transferring to others an authority so peculiar and so unlimited. Are we further reminded of the declaration that the church is “the pillar and ground of the truth," 1 Tim. iii. 15. Granting that Paul so speaks, what does his assertion amount to ? The “ pillar" that bears an inscription, adds no comment to it; the “ground” which supports an edifice, throws no light upon it; the “church," then, though it receives and upholds the truth, is not thereby made an interpreter of truth. Are we also told that if we consent to accept God's word as it has been preserved for us by the church, we ought also to receive the sense which that church affixes to it? We are certain that this is a false statement ; for though the Old Testament has been handed down to us by Jews, we are not bound to interpret it according to the teachings of Jewish Rabbies. Is it affirmed that the church of Rome has the dis
tinguishing privilege of being secure against all possibility of error? We find not that Paul considered the first Christians at Rome safe from danger, nor does he hint that they were at any period to enjoy such honourable exemption ; nay, he deems it necessary to warn them not to be “ high-minded,” but to “fear;" and he urges his advice with a threatening, lest they also should be “cut off,” Rom. xi. 20-22.
We may also show that the claim to infallibility is (2) untrue. For if you ask where this freedom from error is to be found, whether in the ministers or in the members of the church, it will perhaps surprise you to be told that this “infallible church' herself has not only been much perplexed about the matter, but has actually made mistakes about it.
Formerly it was thought that the pope was infallible as the head of the church. But in the course of years it was discovered that one pope could condemn what another had allowed, or allow what another had condemned. Occasionally also there were two or even three persons at the same time, each declaring himself called to the office, each pronouncing curses on the other, and each announcing his opinion as the only unerring one. It became sufficiently manifest that if there was infallibility at all, it must be sought elsewhere.
It was then supposed that general councils were infallible as the voice of the church. But here again they were at fault. One council overturned what another had established, or established what another had denied. The general belief of the Romanists in the present day is, that the power of infallible judgment lies not with a pope alone, nor a council alone, but with both agreed together. This is, however, only a human invention; we read of neither popes nor councils in the Book of God. And it is evidently a clumsy invention; for if they are fallible apart, how can their agreement make them infallible? We read, that “ though hand join in hand, the wicked shall not be unpunished ;” and, in like manner, though hand join in hand, error can never become truth.
We ask you, then, whether you will be satisfied, in matters that concern your soul's welfare, to receive the witness of men. It has been well observed, “ Men are fallible, and may err; men are fallen, and may deceive.” Remember that “the witness of God is greater,”
1 John v. 9. He has left you at no loss as to what is the mind of the Spirit. He has furnished you with a lamp to your feet, and a light to your path ; will you consent to have it taken from you, that you may be led by blind guides, who cannot agree among themselves as to the exact road you should take ? Recollect that at the last day you will be judged by the words which Christ spoke, John xii. 48, and by the gospel which the apostles preached, Rom. ii. 16, not by the decisions of popes, the decrees of councils, or even the universal consent of a church. When God calls you to account, will he hold you guiltless if you try to shift off your responsibility to others, and plead that you had submitted to the authority of a priest? Will he not in effect say, I gave my word to direct you ; I told you of no other infallible guide ; if you have listened to the pretensions of another, and that other has led you astray, the blame has been your own, and your own must be the ruin. Such will be your just condemnation, if you thus slothfully give up your own spiritual guidance. Nothing but indolence or false humility would induce you to do it. If the sacred volume is obscure and
an interpreter be needed, blessed be God tlie same Holy Spirit who inspired its contents is willing both to unfold them and apply them to your heart. Seek his influences evermore, and let your cry be “ Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law,” Psa. cxix. 18.
IV. AS TO ITS PRINCIPLES, IT IS ESSENTIALLY
A SELF-RIGHTEOUS CHURCH. The Romish church teaches, that Christ did indeed die for the salvation of sinners; but that it yet remains for them to secure the forgiveness of sin by their own good works, and to bear part of the penalty of sin by their own personal endurances. They admit that, without Christ, our works and our sufferings would not be accepted ; but they also affirm, that our services and sufferings are needed to complete what the work of Christ has not effected. While they own that the Saviour's death provides freedom from the eternal punishment of the soul, they believe that we have still to work out for ourselves a deliverance from the punishments that sin would