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The New Zealand Evangelist

The Protestant Churches Infallible

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The Protestant Churches Infallible.

It is the boast of the Church of Rome, that she is the infallible interpreter of Scripture, and that those who implicitly follow her teaching cannot err; but that those who admit the right of private judgment, admit a principle that leads to nothing but uncertainty and confusion; to divisions and subdivisions, multiplied without end, and without resource or remedy. To be relieved from the labour and responsibility of personally investigating the word of God—to repose with implicit confidence on the authoritative teaching of the Church or the clergy—to live at ease, and think and believe by proxy, is quite congenial to the natural indolence of the human mind; and such a dogma will find much in human nature favourable for its reception. Protestantism has no such couches for the indolent—no such royal roads to divine knowledge and saving faith. She has no infallible human interpreters, either in tradition or the church. She requires every one to examine the word of God for himself— page 146 to exercise all the reason God has given him—to employ all the helps within his reach—and to pray daily in addition for the aid of the Holy Spirit; to apply himself as diligently, in this way, to ascertain the mind of God and the meaning of Scripture, as he would to acquire any other kind of knowledge; since it is only in so doing, that he will attain to a saving knowledge of the truth. We wait not to show the falsehood of the Popish infallibity; as our object is very briefly to show that the Protestant or Evangelical Churches possess a far higher and surer infallibility, than that claimed by the Church of Rome. Our Law and our Interpretation of the Law are both direct from heaven; and both are open and secured to every member of the church, who will take advantage of the privilege. We have an Infallible Standard—the Bible: received not on the authority of the Church,—but of God. The Church is the pillar and ground of the truth; but this pillar rests upon the foundation of the Apostles and Prophets, the chief corner stone being Jesus Christ. If a royal proclamation is engraven on a pillar, the writing derives no authority from the sculptured marble or the lettered Jorass; all its authority is derived from the name of the sovereign by whom it is issued. The pillar may give extensive and permanent publicity to the proclamation, but it gives it no authority; so the Church, being a public and a permanent institution, is to proclaim and perpetuate the knowledge of the Bible—to give permanent publicity to the truths of God's word; but she confers no authority upon them. They are infallibly certain and perpetually authoritative; because they bear the impress of God, and come direct from heaven. The holy penmen spoke as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.

We have also an Infallible Interpreter of this standard;—not human reason; that is a help, but it is fallible;—not the ministry; that is a help, but it is also fallible. Every human help, though useful in its place, is fallible. But we have a heavenly, an infallible Interpreter—the Holy Spirit. Before page 147 Christ ascended to Heaven he promised the Holy Spirit, to lead his followers into all truth. After his ascension he fulfilled his promise; the Holy Spirit came down on the day of pentecost; He has been on earth since that time, is on earth at present, and will continue till Christ's second coming. This is the Dispensation of the Spirit; and not the ministers only, but the whole Church is under his divine teaching. The very humblest Christian who carefully reads the word of God, or hears it read—who exercises the powers of reason which God has given him—who employs those helps within his reach; and prays honestly, earnestly, and perseveringly, for the teaching of the Holy Spirit—will to a certainty receive so much of this divine teachings as will infallibly preserve him from damnable heresy, and will lead him to a sufficient amount of saving truth. Those who fallow this course may not be kept from every error, may not attain to every truth; but in proportion as they are diligent and honest in their search, they will escape the one and obtain the other. If the Spirit is sought in hypocricy, in formality, or with listless indifference, He will not be obtained; but all who are really in earnest to obtain, a saving knowledge of divine truth, will necessarily employ all the means at their command; and all such, will certainly obtain the infallible guidance of the Holy Spirit.

While the earth remaineth, seed-time and summer will return at their appointed seasons; and whereever, during these periods, the husbandman properly prepares the soil, and casts in the appropriate seed; there the Spirit of God, breathing vegetable life in showers and sunshine, will, by the mysterious agency of heat and moisture, impart vitality to the seeds, and they will spring up, according to their kinds, in varied forms of living beauty. So during the Dispensation of the Spirit, wherever the Bible comes, wherever the truths of God are proclaimed, there is the Spirit, ready to give them effect—wherever the seed—the word, is deposited in a heart prepared for page 148 its reception; there, through the outward and ordi nary means of grace, the Holy Ghost will breathe spiritual life; and light, and love, and peace will appear; and the fruits of righteousness will spring up, more or less, in beauty and abundance. This knowledge will be different, in clearness, certainty, and extent, in different individuals. It may not always secure unanimity of sentiment, and uniformity of practice, on every point, or produce external unity; but it will secure a vital unity in both sentiment and feeling—a unity in these among Christians, so far as is essentially necessary to secure the existence and preservation of spiritual life. With this Infallible Law and this Infallible Divine Interpreter, every honest enquirer will be certainly guided to as much truth as will lead him safely to heaven.

Protestants! Value and improve your inestimable privileges. Your faith does not rest, in any point, upon doubtful traditions. Your standard of belief and practice is the words of the Holy Ghost. The ordinances you observe depend for their efficacy, not on the uncertain claim of priestly succession, but on the promised power of the Spirit of God. The Author and the Interpreter of the law is the same. He is alive; he is on earth; he is promised to all who ask him. But although you have an infallible law and a divine interpreter, remember that the Bible will not teach unless it is studied, and the Spirit will not enlighten unless he is sought. Therefore, be persuaded to search the Scriptures, and to pray earnestly for the Spirit. If you do so, you will assuredly become wise unto salvation.