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structed in the Protestant religion, and not wanting in natural ability, to take a step so foolish, not to say so wicked ? " “ Let me rather ask my brother why he is a Protestant ?"
Why I am a Protestant ? " “ Yes ; I am much mistaken, or that is the harder question of the two to answer."
“ I am a Protestant because the Romish Church is corrupt, the Mystery of Iniquity, the Man of Sin, Antichrist, the Whore of Babylon, drunk with the blood of the saints, a cage of unclean birds, cruel, oppressive, tyrannical, superstitious, idolatrous
“ But you are simply telling me why you are not a Catholic ; my question is, Why are you a Protestant ? "
Protestantism is a solemn protest against Rome, and my reasons for not being a Catholic are my reasons for being a Protestant."
“ Jews, Pagans, Mahometans, deists, atheists, protest as earnestly as you do against Rome ; are they therefore Protestants ? »
“Protestantism is, indeed, a protest against Rome; but it is also a positive religion.”
“ Unaffected by supposing the Catholic Church to have never been or to have ceased to be ?"
“Yes ; Protestantism is independent of Romanism.”'
“A Protestant is one who embraces Protestantism in this independent, positive sense ?"
“Yes, if we speak properly."
“Before telling me why you are a Protestant, it will be necessary to tell what, in this sense, Protestantism is.”
“ It is the religion of the Bible ; — the Bible is the religion of Protestants."
“ And the religion of the Bible is ?"
“ The great evangelical doctrines asserted by the Reformers against the false and corrupt doctrines of Rome, and which we commonly call the doctrines of grace.” “ These doctrines are Protestantism ?"
They are.” “ So Protestantism is the religion of the Bible, and the religion of the Bible is Protestantism !
“ There is nothing absurd or ridiculous in that. Protestantism, Sir, is the religion of the Bible, of the whole Bible, the
Bible alone, - that precious gift of God to man, — the word
of God, the charter of our liberties, the source of redemption, the ground of the Christian's hope, carrying light and life, the blessings of truth, freedom, and civilization, wherever it goes ; and which you Papists, with characteristic cunning, lock up from the people, because you know full well, that, were they once to read it for themselves, they would make short work with the Pope and his minions, break their covenant with death and hell, and put an end to their blasphemies, idolatries, and oppressions.”
“I suspect, brother, you have accommodated that from the speech you made at the last anniversary of the American Bible Society. It may do very well to address to the mob that collects on anniversary week'; but can you not give me a clear, distinct, and precise statement of what Protestantism really is ? "
“ Protestantism is the great truth asserted by the Reformers against Rome, that the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments contain all things necessary to salvation, and that they are the sole and sufficient rule of faith and practice.”
“If I believe the Scriptures are sufficient, and are the sole rule of faith and practice, do I believe the whole of Protestantism ? "
“No ; you must also believe the word of God as contained in the Scriptures."
6. And this word consists of certain credenda or propositions to be believed ?"
" It does ; and these may all be summed up in the text, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.'” - To believe on the Lord Jesus Christ is to believe ?"
“ The truths he has revealed, whether of himself, or other things."
" These truths are ?” " The great evangelical doctrines asserted by the Reform
“ That is, they are Protestantism. Therefore, Protestantism is - Protestantism! But can you not be a little more particular, and tell me what these truths or doctrines are ?"
“ You will find an excellent summary of them in the Westminster Confession of Faith, and the Larger and Shorter Catechisms.”
“ That is, they are Presbyterianism ? Protestantism, then, is Presbyterianism ?”
“What else, from my profession as a Presbyterian minister, should you infer to be my belief?”
" I am rather slow to infer a Presbyterian minister's belief from his profession. But, if Protestantism be Presbyterianism, none but Presbyterians can be Protestants. Is this your belief ? "
“Not exactly ; for there are Protestants who are not Presbyterians."
“ These, of course, differ more or less from Presbyterians, or else they would be Presbyterians. Consequently Protestantism must differ more or less from Presbyterianism."
“In non-essentials, but not in essentials. All who embrace the essentials are Protestants."
"Do Catholics embrace the essentials ? " “ According to the general opinion of Protestants, they do."
“ Then, according to the general opinion of Protestants, Catholics are Protestants ? "
“ But I think differently, and our General Assembly will soon, I hope, solemnly declare that Rome does not retain even the essentials of the Cbristian faith."
“ That will be a sad day for Rome, no doubt ; but what, in your judgment, are the essentials ? "
“They are the great evangelical doctrines of the Reformation, embraced by all orthodox Protestants."
" And orthodox Protestants are
“ All who agree in accepting the sufficiency of the Scriptures, and the great essential doctrines of revelation."
" Which means that the essential doctrines are the essential doctrines, and orthodox Protestants are orthodox Protestants.”
“ The essential doctrines are substantially what is held by Presbyterians."
Those orthodox Protestants who are not Presbyterians differ from Presbyterians only in relation to non-essentials ?”
"That is all." “Presbyterianism, or, what is the same thing, the orthodox faith, then, is made up of two parts, one essential, the other non-essential ? »
“ All parts of the orthodox faith are not alike essential. But there may be differences which are not differences of faith. The Congregationalists, Evangelical Episcopalians, Dutch Reformed, the Calvinistic Baptists, &c., differ from us in matters of discipline and church government, while they embrace substantially the same faith we do.”
" Is infant baptism a matter of faith ? " " Not strictly.”
“ Then you do not baptize infants because you believe Almighty God commands you to baptize them ?"
“ We do ; but the point is not so essential, that those who differ from us must needs err essentially.'
“ One may, then, reject a positive command of God, without essential error ? "
" We think our Baptist brethren err grievously ; but, as they hold the great cardinal doctrines of the Gospel, we do not think their error is absolutely essential. In the present state of the religious world, it is the duty of God's people to make the platform of Christian union as broad as possible, to discountenance theological wranglings, to seek to heal sectarian divisions, and to follow after the things which make for peace.”
" But if you had no fears of Popery, and felt that your own sect had the power to make converts, I suppose you would regard the Baptists as of the number of those who bring in damnable heresies.'"
“ You are ungenerous ; I regret the unsoundness of my Baptist brethren, but I do not consider them as essentially wrong.'
“Not even when they deny you the Christian character, by denying that your baptism is baptism, - and when they refuse to commune with you, on the ground that you are unbaptized persons ; that is, infidels, in the proper sense of the word ?”
“ There they are wrong ; but still not essentially so, because baptism itself is a non-essential.”
“ Then you do not agree in opinion with our Lord, who says, • Unless a man be born again of water and of the Holy Ghost, he shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven' ?”
“ Christian doctrines are distinguishable into fundamentals and non-fundamentals. The fundamentals are the essentials, the non-fundamentals are the non-essentials. All who believe the former are substantially orthodox, though they may differ about the latter."
“ The non-fundamentals are either revealed truths, or they are not. If they are not, your distinction of fundamentals and non-fundamentals is simply a distinction between what is revealed and what is not revealed, between the word of God and the words of men or of devils; and, on this supposition, the essentials will be what God has revealed, and the non-essentials what he has not revealed. If they are revealed truths,
you imply that a portion of the revealed word is unessential, and may be disbelieved or rejected without essential error. Which do you say?"
Suppose we say they are no portion of the revealed word ?
“ You cannot say that, because you have declared them to be revealed truths, by asserting that Christian doctrines are distinguishable into fundamentals and non-fundamentals. But pass over this. If you say the non-fundamentals, that is, the nonessentials, are not revealed truths, you imply, by making the fundamentals essential to be believed, that the whole revealed word is essential to be believed, and therefore deny that there can be any differences of opinion as to any portion of what is revealed, without essential error, which renders your distinction between fundamentals and non-fundamentals of no avail ; since no one, unless a Protestant, is likely to contend that any thing more than what is revealed is essential to be believed. Is it not so ?"
“ So it appears.”
“ Then again, you say, men, though differing about the nonessentials, that is, about what is not revealed, are substantially orthodox, if they believe the essentials, that is, what is revealed. Now they may differ about the non-essentials, by believing, some, that they are, and some, that they are not, revealed truths, or portions of the word of God, as we see in the case of you and the Baptists concerning infant baptism ; you believing it to be revealed and commanded by God himself, they believing it not revealed and implicitly forbidden. Now, if men may believe the non-essentials to be revealed, they may, according to you, without essential error, believe that to be the word of God which is the word of men or of devils. Do you admit this ? "
" Of course not. •Cursed is every one that addeth to the words of this book.' The condemnation of Rome is not so much that she denies the essential truths of the Christian religion, as that she overlays them by her corrupt additions, and renders them of none effect through the traditions of men. It is as much an error to add to the word as to take from it.”
“ Then you abandon this supposition, and take the other, that the non-essentials are revealed truths, portions of the word of God?"
“ Be it so, for the present.”