Letter v. Yes, My Dear Friend, it is My Conviction that in all Ordinary Cases the Knowledge...
Yes, my dear friend, it is my conviction that in all ordinary cases the knowledge and belief of the Christian Religion should precede the study of the Hebrew Canon. Indeed, with regard to both Testaments, I consider oral and catechismal instruction as the preparative provided by Christ himself in the establishment of a visible Church. And to make the Bible, apart from the truths, doctrines, and spiritual experiences contained therein, the subject of a special article of faith, I hold an unnecessary and useless abstraction, which in too many instances has the effect of substituting a barren acquiescence in the letter for the lively FAITH THAT COMETH BY HEARING; even as the hearing is productive of this faith, because it is the Word of God that is heard and preached. (Rom. x.8, 17.) And here I mean the written Word preserved in the armoury of the Church to be the sword of faith OUT OF THE MOUTH of the preacher, as Christ's ambassador and representative (Rev. i.16), and out of the heart of the believer from generation to generation. Who shall dare dissolve or loosen this holy bond, this divine reciprocality, of Faith and Scripture? Who shall dare enjoin aught else as an object of saving faith, beside the truths that appertain to salvation? The imposers take on themselves a heavy responsibility, however defensible the opinion itself, as an opinion, may be. For by imposing it, they counteract their own purposes. They antedate questions, and thus, in all cases, aggravate the difficulty of answering them satisfactorily. And not seldom they create difficulties that might never have occurred. But, worst of all, they convert things trifling or indifferent into mischievous pretexts for the wanton, fearful difficulties for the weak, and formidable objections for the inquiring. For what man FEARING God dares think any the least point indifferent, which he is required to receive as God's own immediate Word miraculously infused, miraculously recorded, and by a succession of miracles preserved unblended and without change? -- Through all the pages of a large and multifold volume, at each successive period, at every sentence, must the question recur:- "Dare I believe -- do I in my heart believe -- these words to have been dictated by an infallible reason, and the immediate utterance of Almighty God?" -- No! It is due to Christian charity that a question so awful should not be put unnecessarily, and should not be put out of time. The necessity I deny. And out of time the question must be put, if after enumerating the several articles of the Catholic Faith I am bound to add:- "and further you are to believe with equal faith, as having the same immediate and miraculous derivation from God, whatever else you shall hereafter read in any of the sixty-six books collected in the Old and New Testaments."

I would never say this. Yet let me not be misjudged as if I treated the Scriptures as a matter of indifference. I would not say this, but where I saw a desire to believe, and a beginning love of Christ, I would there say:- "There are likewise sacred writings, which, taken in connection with the institution and perpetuity of a visible Church, all believers revere as the most precious boon of God, next to Christianity itself, and attribute both their communication and preservation to an especial Providence. In them you will find all the revealed truths, which have been set forth and offered to you, clearly and circumstantially recorded; and, in addition to these, examples of obedience and disobedience both in states and individuals, the lives and actions of men eminent under each dispensation, their sentiments, maxims, hymns, and prayers -- their affections, emotions, and conflicts; -- in all which you will recognise the influence of the Holy Spirit, with a conviction increasing with the growth of your own faith and spiritual experience."


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