I AM now proceeding to a subject which will in some little degree take me beyond the bounds which I had proposed to myself when I began, but which, being closely connected with that subject, and (as I think) important, has a claim on our attention. The argument which has been last engaging us is this: Objection is made to the indirectness of the evidence from Scripture on which the peculiar Church doctrines are proved;—I have answered, that sacred history is for the most part marked by as much apparent inconsistency, as recorded in one part of Scripture and another, as there is inconsistency as regards doctrine in the respective informations of Scripture and the Church; one event being told us here, another there; so that we have to compare, compile, reconcile, adjust. As then we do not complain of the history being conveyed in distinct, and at times conflicting, documents, so too we have no fair reason for complaining of the obscurities and intricacies under which doctrine is revealed through its two channels.

I then went on to answer in a similar way the objection, that Scripture was contrary to the teaching of the Church (i.e., to our Prayer Book), not only in specific statements, but in tone; for I showed that what we call the tone of Scripture, or the impression it makes on the reader, varies so very much according to the reader, that little stress can be laid upon it, and that its tone and the impression it makes would tell against a variety of other points undeniably true and firmly held by us, quite as much as against the peculiar Church doctrines.

In a word, it is as easy to show that Scripture has no contents at all, or next to none, as that it does not contain the special Church doctrines—I mean, the objection which is brought against the Apostolical Succession or the Priesthood being in Scripture, tells against the instruction and information conveyed in Scripture generally. But now I am going to a further point, which has been incidentally touched on, that this same objection is prejudicial not only to the Revelation, whatever it is, contained in Scripture, but to the text of Scripture itself, to the books of Scripture, to their canonicity, to their authority. I have said, the line of reasoning entered on in this objection may be carried forward, and, if it reaches on point, may be made to reach others also. For, first, if the want of method and verbal consistency in Scripture be an objection to the "teaching of the Prayer Book," it is also an objection equally to what is called "Orthodox Protestantism." Further, I have shown that it tells also against the trustworthiness of the sacred history, to the statement of facts contained in any part of Scripture, which is in great measure indirect. And now, lastly, I shall show that it is an objection to the Bible itself, both because that Book cannot be a Revelation which contains neither definite doctrine nor unequivocal matter of fact, and next because the evidence, on which its portions are received, is not clearer or fuller than its own evidence for the facts and doctrines which our Article says it "contains." This is the legitimate consequence of the attempt to invalidate the scripturalness of Catholic doctrine, on the allegation {198} of its want of Scripture proof—an invalidating of Scripture itself; this is the conclusion to which both the argument itself, and the temper of mind which belongs to it, will assuredly lead those who use it, at least in the long run.

There is another objection which is sometimes attempted against Church doctrines, which may be met in the same way. It is sometimes strangely maintained, not only that Scripture does not clearly teach them, but that the Fathers do not clearly teach them; that nothing can be drawn for certain from the Fathers; that their evidence leaves matters pretty much as it found them, as being inconsistent with itself, or of doubtful authority. This part of the subject has not yet been considered, and will come into prominence as we proceed with the present argument.

I purpose, then, now to enlarge on this point; that is, to show that those who object to Church doctrines, whether from deficiency of Scripture proof or of Patristical proof, ought, if they acted consistently on their principles, to object to the canonicity and authority of Scripture; a melancholy truth, if it be a truth; and I fear it is but too true. Too true, I fear, it is in fact,—not only that men ought, if consistent, to proceed from opposing Church doctrine to oppose the authority of Scripture, but that the leaven which at present makes the mind oppose Church doctrine, does set it, or will soon set it, against Scripture. I wish to declare what I think will be found really to be the case, viz., that a battle for the Canon of Scripture is but the next step after a battle for the Creed,—that the Creed comes first in the assault, that is all; and that if we were not defending the Creed, we should at this moment be defending the Canon. Nay, I would predict as a coming event, that minds are {199} to be unsettled as to what is Scripture and what is not; and I predict it that, as far as the voice of one person in one place can do, I may defeat my own prediction by making it. Now to consider the subject.