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That every denomination of christians should adopt and act up to this resolution must be the wish of all who possess real charity, or a real love of truth. -It was a golden observation of St. Francis of Sales, that "a good christian is never outdone in good manners."
Better rules cannot be laid down for conducting controversy than those suggested by Doctor Hey, the late Norisian professor at Cambridge. From the first volume of his Lectures they are thus extracted, but with some additional observations, by the late Mr. Richard Kirwan, in his " Logic, or an Essay on the Elements, Principles, and different Modes of Reasoning, Part. IV. Ch. I. Sec. 3;" an original and very instructive work.
First," says Doctor Hey, "the terms, in which the subject in debate is conceived, should be so clearly explained, as that their precise signification should be expressly agreed on by both parties.
"Secondly, all expressions of self-sufficiency should be carefully avoided; he uses such expressions, who calls his own cause, the cause of God, and his own interpretation, the word of God.
"Thirdly, whoever uses personal reflections should be deemed an enemy to truth: they prevent even just reason from being attended to by com
"Fourthly, no one should accuse his adversary of indirect motives.
"Fifthly, the consequences of any doctrine are not to be charged on those, who hold those doctrines, unless they expressly avow them. If, from any proposition, absurd propositions follow, it is rightly concluded, that the original proposition is false; but it cannot be rightly concluded, that the adversaries maintain those absurd propositions;—that is, barely a matter of fact.
Sixthly, it is improper to refer any saying of an adversary to a party; this is done, when it is said, this is downright Popish superstition, Scottish philosophy, Irish blundering, rash Tory principle:"
"These rules," says Mr. Kirwan, "have been very seldom observed in any controversy; the "nearest approach to a perfect conformity to them, may be seen in the controversial correspondence "of the late excellent Dr. Priestley and Dr. Price, "and also in the amicable conference of the learned "Beza and professor Jacobi, at Montbeliard."
Mr. Kirwan might have added, the Amica Collatio of Limborch and the Jew Orobio. They were not observed in the controversy between Bossuet and Fenelon; but, in the controversy between Bossuet and Claude, to the perusal of which I invite every reader, there was no departure from any one of them. In my heart," says Dr. Milner, in his Strictures on some of the publications of the
learned Lady Margaret Professor" I love a good argument."-Readers of this taste will be abundantly gratified by Bossuet's account of this celebrated conference.
In addition to the excellent rules for controversy, laid down by Dr. Hey, I beg leave to suggest the particular observance of the following rule in all religious controversies with roman-catholics :"That no doctrines should be ascribed to them, as a body, except such as are articles of their faith.'
-Of the many misconceptions of their tenets, of which the roman-catholics complain, they feel none more than those, which proceed from the want of observance of this rule. It is most true, that the roman-catholics believe the doctrines of their church to be unchangeable: and that it is a tenet of their creed, that what their faith ever has been, such it was from the beginning, such it now is, and such it ever will be. But this they confine to the articles of their faith; and they consider no doctrine to be of faith, unless it have been delivered by divine revelation, and been propounded, as such, by the church. This the roman-catholics wish their adversaries never to forget.
When any of their adversaries find, in any catho lic writer a position, which he thinks reprehensible, he should inquire, whether it be an article of catholic faith, or an opinion of the writer. In the
latter case, he should reflect, that the general body of the catholics is not responsible for it, and should therefore abstain from charging it upon the body.
If he take the higher ground, he should first endeavour to ascertain, that it is an article of the roman-catholic faith.-But here, again, he should carefully examine, whether it be the principle itself, which he means to impute to the catholics, or a consequence which he deduces from it. These are widely different, and should never be confounded. If it be the principle, he should then inquire, whether it have ever been propounded to them, as an article of faith, by the church. A wise method of ascertaining this, would be, to read the "Catechism of the Council of Trent." A A proper perusal, however, of that work, requires attentive study: if he be unable to give it such a perusal, let him read Bossuet's "Exposition of Faith ;" and consult, (if not the work itself), at least the abridgment of Mr. Gother's Papist Misrepresented and Represented:" let him also read Dr. Challoner's "Three Short Summaries of Catholic Faith and Doctrine," prefixed to his "Garden of the Soul." the most popular Prayer-book of the English catholics. Having read these, let him ascertain, whether the doctrine, with which he charges the catholics, be, in terms or substance, stated in any of them, to be an article of their faith. If he conceive that it is stated, in any of them, to be such, let him insert, in his publication, the passage, in which he professes
to discover it, mentioning explicitly the work, the edition of it, and the page in which it is to be found. Should the passage be found, in terms, or substance, in any of the works I have mentioned, then it will be incumbent on the catholics, either to show that the writer, in whose work the passage is found, was mistaken, (which from the acknowledged character of all the works I have mentioned, will not, I think, ever happen), or to admit, that it is an article of their faith; and then the roman-catholics will be justly chargeable with it. Whatever other opinions can be adduced, though they be the opinions of their most respectable writers, though they be the opinions of the fathers of their church, still they are but matters of opinion, and a catholic may disbelieve them, without ceasing to be a catholic. Would it not be both a fair and a short way of ending the controversy between the protestants and catholics, that every person, who charges the general body of catholics with any religious tenet, should be obliged to cite from the catechism of the council of Trent, or from one or other of the works I have mentioned, of Bossuet, Mr. Gother, or Dr. Challoner, the passage in which such tenet is contained and propounded as an article of faith?